Analytical vs. Argumentative Research Papers
When writing a research paper, you have the choice of two main approaches: analytical and argumentative. Sometimes your research assignment may specify which approach you should use, but sometimes the decision on how to approach your topic rests on your shoulders. The scope and purpose of your paper determines which approach is more suited to your topic.
While there are distinct differences between writing an analytical research paper and writing an argumentative research paper, there are some common principles as well:
- Logical thinking is necessary.
- Smart evaluation of information fuels what is included.
- Comprehensive research of source material is conducted.
The major difference between the two research paper types is made in the process of writing, or presenting the topic. Analytical papers create a balanced, neutral approach to presenting a snapshot of an overall topic from which you draw conclusions, and argumentative papers create a debate between differing sides with a logical argument that favors one side of an argument over another.
The analytical research paper
Forming a research question is the basis of an analytical research paper. The question is neutral and provides direction for you to evaluate and explore the topic as it relates to answering the question. Your thesis statement presents the research question, and the remainder of your paper supports your thesis.
This type of research paper is not a simple regurgitation of information. Instead, it is your thoughts, conclusions and evaluations of a topic that is backed up with logical information. Several things are vital in formulating an analytical research paper:
- You answer the research questions objectively.
- You have no preconceived notions or opinions about the topic.
- You evaluate the topic and draw conclusions from factual information from reliable sources.
- You piece findings together to present the purpose of the paper.
- You use serious contemplation and a critical evaluation to answer the research question.
The argumentative research paper
Taking one side of an issue or topic is the central point of an argumentative research paper. Your stance is built into the thesis statement, which makes the argument you feel is more logical for the given topic. The biggest goal of this type of paper is to convince your readers to agree with your point of view by backing up your position with a logical argument supported by facts and information from credible sources.
An argumentative research paper does not simply demand readers agree with you based solely on your opinion. Instead, careful and structured research is used to demonstrate the viability of your argument by providing information that allows readers to draw the same logical conclusion. There are several things that are crucial in writing this type of paper:
- You use logical persuasion to build your argument in order to convince readers.
- You clearly state your argument or stance in the thesis statement.
- You introduce the topic sufficiently before taking a stance.
- You use credible sources to back up your position and include information about the opposing view.
- You use critical evaluation to create a logical argument.
Regardless of which research paper type you are undertaking, the backbone of writing a great paper starts with conducting thorough and structured research, using effective note-taking strategies and forming a strong thesis statement. While the thesis statement you start with may evolve as you write your paper, an analytical research paper has a more fluid thesis than an argumentative one; the thesis statement may undergo more changes as you begin outlining, writing a rough draft or finalizing your paper.
As you work through the organization process of writing a research paper, stay aware of which approach your topic requires to stay focused on the right aspects of the topic. If you are writing with an analytical approach, use an objective and logical presentation of facts to answer your research question. If you are writing with an argumentative approach, use logical thinking and an accurate representation of both sides of an issue while persuading your audience to reach the same conclusions you do.
What Are the Differences Between the Kinds of Papers I Am Assigned?
Do you occasionally suspect that your professors think you're clairvoyant? Do you wonder if you were sick the day they passed out the cheat sheet entitled "Vocabulary of Academia and You"? They assign various papers and assume that you understand exactly what a 'critique' entails, and why it is different from the 'essay' you wrote last week. Well, read on, before you get another assignment you don't understand and try to stab your professor with his dry-erase marker.
Why, you ask, do professors have so many words just to assign you a paper? All these words exist so that your assignment can subtly tell you what the focus of your work should be. As a direct result of the Smarter Than You Act of 1932, colleges and universities are forbidden from giving their assignments in plain English. And so based on what the professor wants to read, he or she chooses from a list of words that are intended to tell you what to produce. All of these words, amazingly, mean 'paper.' But since not all papers are alike, each of these identifying words and phrases have subtle differences.
What exactly is an 'essay,' first of all? Technically, an essay is a short paper written on a specific topic. So basically, anything can be an essay that's not a dissertation or thesis or something else really, really long. So as a student, the meaning to you of this definition is that when you are assigned an essay, the professor expects you to give your views on a certain topic, supported by the appropriate number of sources. Many professors will specify this appropriate number. If not, and you know that you are expected to support your argument with outside sources, one per paragraph is usually a good number. 63% of scholars think so (Anonymous). The total number of sources depends on the length of your paper, but three is a good starting point. From there, find what you need to support your point.
But what about the more specific paper types? The research paper, for example. Most students would be able to deduce that this particular assignment asks for a paper based on research. But what does this mean? We learned earlier that these assignment-phrases were invented to suggest the intended focus of a paper. The connection here, then, is that a research paper differs from an essay in that the research takes the spotlight here. So while the essay focuses on your analysis of the topic and supports that analysis with research, the research paper focuses on the sources and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. In this case, you are the vehicle for the research rather than the research being the vehicle for your ideas.
Other paper types, such as the critique and the analysis, have more in common. These are typically found in the context of an assignment that requests your opinion on a specific source. When you see these words, you can expect to be given the resource by your professor, or at least to be directed to it. So what do you do with it, though, when you get it? If the assignment is a 'critique,' expect to be criticizing something. Remember, however, that in academia, you cannot criticize without providing a good reason. If you disagree with the source, you must explain why. However, you are expected to give your educated opinion in one way or another. In the case of the analysis, however, the professor seeks a more objective approach. The analysis requires you to - guess what? - analyze. Take the source piece by piece and explain the meaning and ramifications to the subject matter.
Your professors are speaking English. They just happen to be referring to a specific sub-set of vocabulary that no one outside of the academic world will ever need. But you need it, and now you know it, so you can go ahead and write that analytic research paper, with full confidence in what the professor wants. You can put the marker down now.