Ideally, an SCA research paper should do more than simply summarize known information. It should ask a question, make an argument, prove a point, or draw a conclusion of historical significance or of significance to the way in which we attempt to accurately recreate the past in the SCA. Something called a thesis statement usually appears at the end of the introductory paragraph of the paper, and would offer a concise summary of the main point or claim of the paper. The thesis statement is usually expressed in one sentence containing the topic and the controlling idea, and may be repeated elsewhere in the paper, when appropriate.
Definition of source material:
- Primary: direct; contemporary to the project (as in objects), and/or directly reporting on the project (as in dig reports)
- Secondary: analytical; interpretation of primary sources
- Tertiary: indirect; includes encyclopedic sources, popular publications, web sites, etc.
Research papers can come in different types:
A research paper can be Argumentative: this is a good structure for writers presenting a debated topic. The writer must first clearly explain and present at least two popular, but differing, opinions on the issue at hand. The writer is expected to have an opinion, or strong view, for one side of the topic and take a position in the paper. This position is clearly articulated in the thesis. The writer then presents facts, data, and authoritative opinions in support of their position to persuade and convince the reader and argue against any contradictions.
A research paper can Compare and Contrast: this type of paper is used to compare two different subjects or concepts, and how they relate to one another in both similarities and differences. The thesis helps provide clarity on the contrast and comparison throughout the paper. The goal is not to persuade the reader, but to inform the reader towards the philosophical distinctions between varying viewpoints of related topics or genres.
A research paper can be Analytical: here, the writer focuses on facts instead of opinions. It is informational in nature and uses a large variety of viewpoints and sources on a subject without a specific opinion. The thesis of the paper will clearly articulate the scope of the information explored and the methods and scope of the analysis. The writer provides the reader with as much information as possible, but allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. However, instead of merely presenting the information, the writer must be able to conduct factual analysis of the data presented.
A research paper can be a Report: this is merely an organized and detailed list of facts about a topic. In many cases the report works to outline details related to a case study or process. The thesis of the paper will clearly describe the subject being explored and the scope of the report. The thesis statement can describe the writer’s experience related to the topic under consideration. Authors of reports choose a subject, research it, and convey the evidence to the reader using quotations, graphs, tables, interviews, experiments, a summary, and an appendix.
A research paper can show Cause and Effect: this approach guides the reader through a series of “chain of event” scenarios. Such papers work to study results — considered, expected, or probable — in relation to an action that follows. The thesis of this type of paper makes clear the scope of the study and the expected results. Data is provided to increase the validity of the statement that choosing A will cause B and so forth. It is important to remember that cause and effect papers are not written based on opinion, but on quantifiable evidence with supporting documentation. If supporting evidence can be found, this format can be both informational and intriguing for the reader.
Related page: rubric for research papers.