In this Lesson, you will learn:
To produce an original Research Report
Lesson: Writing a Research Report
Learn What It Is
You have chosen your Topic. Now, it is time to write.
Writing a research report gives you an opportunity to learn about a topic in depth by investigating a question or an idea. To write this kind of report, you must gather information from a variety of sources, and then present what you’ve learned clearly and accurately.
Basics in a Box
Open and read the Basics in a Box Handout: Research Report (click on link).
- DEVELOPING A RESEARCH PLAN
When you investigate a subject in depth, you need to consult a wide range of sources. The research takes time; therefore, planning is a major priority.
Defining Information Needs
Whether your topic is one that you’ve been assigned or one that you’ve chosen yourself, it’s important to find an “angle” on it—a focused and fresh perspective. Suppose, for example, you have an interest in baseball. After skimming books and looking through magazines, you may decide that softball, a similar game, may provide you with your angle. You don’t know yet what you want to write about softball. You just know that the topic seems interesting.
You might make a list of questions to help you explore different aspects of the game:
- How did the game of softball get started?
- Who started it and why?
- How does softball differ from baseball?
- Why is softball popular?
- What if the media covered softball as thoroughly as baseball?
Developing Research Questions
As you begin to find answers to your initial questions, you will be able to refine and focus the topic of your report. You will then need to develop another list of questions to guide your research. You might decide to focus on the differences between baseball and softball and to prove that softball can be as exciting as baseball. These could be two of your questions:
- What are the similarities and differences between the two games?
- What aspects of each game appeal to most fans?
Good questions can help you write an effective report. You might evaluate each of your questions by asking yourself:
- Is the question interesting? Relevant to my topic?
- Will answering the question give me insight into my topic?
- Can I find a source that will answer the question?
NOTECARDS: As you READ, RESEARCH, and INTERVIEW take notes on Note Cards. This is the best way to save yourself from accidentally palgiarizing or copying someone else’s work. Be sure to write enough, to add details, and to copy quotes directly that you want to use (and give credit for) in your paper. You should have 8-12 Note Cards. (You will be asked to scan and submit these Note Cards for evaluation before writing your Research Paper.)
- CRAFTING A GOOD THESIS STATEMENT
Let’s suppose you have gathered all the information that you can. How do you begin to get it all on paper? Perhaps the best way to start is to create a thesis statement-—a statement of a central idea that is supported by the information you have gathered. Your thesis statement should convey your point of view, and it should be a statement that can be supported with various kinds of evidence. This Thesis Statement should appear in your Introduction (your first paragraph).
Here are some sample thesis statements for research papers:
- Laser technology has had its most important effects in the field of medicine.
- We may never know whether the events described in the Odyssey are just stories and legends or things that really happened, but an exploration of the issue can lead to a greater understanding of this classic story.
Here is a checklist to help you develop a good thesis statement for a research report:
*Is the thesis sufficiently limited and sharply focused?
*Have I stated it concisely in a sentence that my readers will understand?
*Do I have the time and resources to do justice to my thesis?
*Will my thesis allow me to write a paper that will fulfill my assignment?
- ORGANIZING AND OUTLINING
After researching your topic, taking notes, and developing a thesis, you will need to choose an organizational pattern and outline your paper.
Choosing an Organizational Pattern
You can begin organizing your research information by arranging your note cards according to their key ideas. Try several arrangements, such as sequential order and comparison-contrast order, to see which works best. You may want to use different forms of organization in different parts of your report. Then create an outline, using the key ideas as the main entries.
For example: For the report about softball vs. baseball, comparison-contrast organization was an obvious choice. Here is the beginning of the outline that the writer of that report used.
Softball: A Game as Exciting as Hardball
Thesis Statement: In its “fast pitch” form, softball is every bit as exciting, competitive, and tough as its older cousin.
- History of the games
III. Similarities in the rules
- Differences between the sports
- Playing-field dimensions
- Size of ball
Once you have an outline, you can group your index cards according to the entries in it. Keep in mind, however, that an outline is meant to guide you, not to limit you. You can change it at any time as you draft. You may be tempted to try to write a research paper without using an outline. This may work for you on some occasions, but an outline will usually help you write a better paper.
Gather your note cards and your outline and begin writing. You may want to begin with the section you understand best or are most interested in and then continue your report. Or you may choose to begin with the introduction and move sequentially through the outline. You don’t have to follow any formula. It is best to write in the way that is most comfortable for you. Make sure that you write one or two paragraphs for every entry in your outline and that you put your paragraphs in order before you review your writing and begin your revision. Remember to incorporate your own ideas into the report. Your major goal will be to support your thesis statement.
Integrating Your Notes into Your Paper
The writer of the softball report knew from playing the game how hard it is to hit a well-pitched softball. However, of course, he had to prove this. Then he read that softball pitchers had struck out two of the greatest baseball players of all time.
To show how talented softball pitchers can be, and how effective against great baseball players, the writer wove some of these facts into a single paragraph in the final version of his report.
Share Your Own Ideas and Interpretations
When you write a report, do more than just restate the information you found. Make inferences, analyze and interpret evidence, and draw your own reasonable conclusions. Of course, you will need to use facts, examples, and other evidence to back up your ideas. Make sure that your statements and conclusions are accurate and well supported.
- DOCUMENTING INFORMATION
Yes, a bit of this information repeats from your last Lesson—it is very important and you need to review it.
PARENTHETICAL (or IN-TEXT) DOCUMENTATION is the most common way of crediting sources in the body of a research report. Brief references in parentheses within the body of the report allow readers to locate the complete information about the sources in the Works Cited list. This Works Cited list is a detailed record of sources that appears as a separate page at the end of your report. It is very important that you credit the source of each quotation, each paraphrase, and each summary you use.
STOP: Look again at LESSON 06.5—the section PARENTHETICAL (or IN-TEXT) DOCUMENTATION.
Preparing a Works Cited List
With all your source cards handy, read your report carefully and put a check mark on the card for every work that you have cited. Put the other cards aside. (A Works Cited list documents only the works that you have actually referred to in your report.) Then alphabetize the checked cards according to the authors’ last names. Alphabetize anonymous works by the first words (except A, An, or The) in their titles.
STOP: Look again at LESSON 06.5—the section WORKS CITED LIST.
Be sure to follow the instructions listed in the Lesson for how to type your list. Be sure to follow the examples on the Handout.
Effective Word Choice In the rush and heat of writing a draft, it is likely that you will have chosen some lazy or hazy words that could profitably be replaced. Look for such words and think of more exact and vivid substitutes.
As you revise your research report, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my choice of nouns, verbs, and modifiers lively and specific?
- Is my introduction interesting? Is the thesis clearly stated?
- Have I followed a logical pattern of organization, using transitions between ideas?
- Have I used primary and secondary sources, documenting them clearly and accurately?
EDITING AND PROOFREADING
Using Parenthetical Documentation
- Follow the guidelines for parenthetical documentation when you cite sources in your paper. Remember, when you cite an author’s name in the body of the paper, put only the page reference in parentheses.
- Replace any word choices that are too informal.
- Delete repetitious words, phrases, and ideas.
- Combine choppy sentences into longer, more interesting ones.
ASSIGNMENT: Investigate a topic that really interests you, and write a Research Report about it.
- Choose Your Topic.
If you cannot think of a topic, here are a few “writing prompts”:
- Choose a common object in everyday use, such as a fork, zipper, or phone. Research the origin of the object and its development to its current state. Write a report describing the major events in the evolution of the object.
- Imagine glancing at the sky either during daylight or at night. Which of the things you see arouses your curiosity most strongly? The moon and its changes? How the constellations came to be named? What clouds are made of and how they are related to weather patterns? How high jets are traveling, or how quickly their sound reaches you? Let your curiosity lead you to a topic that you can research. Write a report to answer your own questions.
- Recall an interesting exhibit or display that you have seen at a museum, an aquarium, a zoo, or a similar place. Revisit the exhibit and select some aspect of it about which you would like to know more. Using the exhibit as your first source of information, do research on the issue you have chosen, and write a report. If possible, also create visual aids, sketches, diagrams, or models that could be displayed to clarify your topic.
- You probably have heard your parents speak nostalgically of “the good old days.” Ask several friends or relatives over 50 years old to identify one or more events in the news during their childhood that made a strong impression on them. Select one of those events and do research on it. In your report, discuss what led to the event, describe the event itself, and tell whether the event has had lasting effects.
And, a list of several more possible topics:
- Wacky inventions
- Chinese Empire
- Space exploration
- Academy Awards
- Potato Famine
- Star Wars
- Global warming
- American presidency
- Heroes in literature
- Follow the Directions above (#1-6) in the Lecture Section of this Lesson for:
- TAKING NOTES
- DEVELOPING A THESIS STATEMENT
- ORGANIZING AND OUTLINING
- EDITING YOUR REPORT
REQUIREMENTS for your Final RESEARCH REPORT:
- You will need at least four (4) sources total for your Research Report. You may have more.
- One (1) source must be a print resource (hard copy–not online): book, magazine, encyclopedia, etc.
- One (1) source must be a primary source (letter, journal, diary, original manuscript, questionnaire, or interview).
- Your report must be 400 words minimum (1 1/2 pages of text, typed, double-spaced)—you can use more words, but not less.
- Your report must include an introduction (paragraph 1–which includes your Thesis Statement), at least 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
- Your report should include at least one picture or graphic aid: chart, table, graph, map, or diagram. (You will need many more of these as you complete the PowerPoint Presentation of your Report, so make notes about things you will create or duplicate as you complete your research.)
- You will need to include a Works Cited page that lists your sources.
- Your report must follow the Formatting Guide for writing Reports in Eagle Hall: Heading, headers, font type and size, spacing, works cited page.