A research paper is similar to an expository essay because you’re taking a neutral or objective approach to a specific topic. It could be about anything, from a specific event in history to a person, place, literary work, or object. You are going to be taking an in-depth look at that specific topic and presenting facts about it to give your audience an explanation.
As the title suggests, a research paper relies on a lot of research. You need to find a variety of credible sources with reliable information you can use in your explanation. Primary sources can be very helpful for research papers, especially if you’re focusing on a historic topic.
Ultimately, you want to show your audience why it’s important that they know about this topic and why it’s significant for their learning. If it’s a historical event, what impact did this event have on history and why are we still talking about it now? Likewise, if you’re talking about a person, why is it relevant to know who this person was or is?
If you’re assigned a big research paper in class or as your thesis or dissertation, you may also be required to complete a research proposal and possibly an annotated bibliography beforehand. This is a great step to take even if you aren’t required to do so because it gives you a clear idea of the topic you’re going to use and how you will formulate a thesis statement. Narrowing down a thesis statement for a research paper can be pretty tough, but we’ll talk more about that in the coming chapters. Since you could write a research essay on a wide variety of topics, there are plenty of things to choose
from. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Aerial warfare in World War II
- The Women’s Rights Movement
- Leonardo DaVinci, the Renaissance Man
- Climate Change and how it works
- The evolution of modern hip-hop music
- The invention of modern democracy
- Burial rituals in Ancient Egypt
- Medical advancements in the field of genetics
- Advertising in the 19th century
- The Civil Rights Movement
- Cultural food practices
Analytical Essays/Literary Analysis Essays
In an analytical essay, you are making an argument or a claim about your topic and then supporting those claims with evidence. While it sounds like an argumentative essay, it’s a little bit different because
you’re still presenting it neutrally instead of persuading the reader to take a side.
Usually, an analytical essay is written about another text, such as a movie, book, journal article, television show, piece of artwork, or poem, but it could also apply to an idea or concept. The point is to
dig beyond the surface of what you’re reading or seeing to figure out what it all really means. When the analytical essay is done based on another piece of writing, it’s usually referred to as a literary analysis.
When writing a literary analysis, you need to remember that this is not a summary. You need to do more than just reiterate what the author has written and make deeper connections to the source material.
Find a theme to focus on and analyze how the author has presented that theme throughout the work.
For example, you could write a literary analysis focusing on the theme of nature versus nurture in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Here are some more examples of topics you could use for an analytical essay:
- The ticking sound in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart
- Racial divisions in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
- Negative stereotypes in classic Disney movies
- Family relationships in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
- The impact of divorce on young children and the family structure
- Double standards in media imagery
- Graffiti as more than just street vandalism
- Crime in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film Pulp Fiction
- Romeo’s impulsive nature in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
- Women’s roles in Victorian literature
Cause and Effect Essays
Also known as reason and result essays, a cause and effect essay explains the reasons why something happens, and the outcomes that occur when it happens. Naturally, you need to be writing about logical topics that are actually directly related with the evidence to back up your ideas. You can’t just write about theoretical ideas that don’t have any real proof.
There are generally two ways to approach a cause and effect essay: the focus-on-effects method, where you provide a more in-depth analysis of the effects or outcomes of the topic, or the focus-on-causes method, where the analysis focuses on the causes. Whichever method you choose, you still need to establish a clear relationship between the two.
The research you find will explain or provide evidence as to why those effects occur and how you came to your conclusions. For example, if you are claiming that global warming is threatening the polar bear population in the Arctic, you need to provide concrete proof that global warming exists and that the polar bear population is decreasing. Don’t just assume that your reader knows these things already. Here are some basic examples of cause and effect essay topics:
- Smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer
- The causes and effects of overpopulation
- Implementing healthy school policies will help reduce childhood obesity
- The opioid crisis leads to larger social consequences
- Positive impacts from introducing computer-based learning methods in the classroom
- Teaching young children digital literacy skills can increase their personal safety
- Negative body image from media misconceptions can lead to eating disorders in young women