In a discussion regarding writing a research paper, what is a definition of research and at least one thing that could be difficult in the process?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps the best way to start is with a dictionary definition of "research." It is

the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

It sounds so simple when it is stated this way, but of course anyone who has ever done research knows that research is anything but simple. 

In the academic world, which I presume will be the focus of your discussion, research is essential to a student's success. Research in this realm should be scholarly, focused, timely and accurately presented. Each of these criteria presents some significant challenges to the researcher.

"Scholarly" is a vague word which can create problems for any researcher simply because it means so many different things to those who expect it. The term "scholarly sources" can refer to the level of writing and/or the level of expertise the author or authors have. These sources can also be difficult to find and access, at times, even in the digital age.

If you type "what is a scholarly source" into your internet search engine, there are thousands of resources (mine showed more than 38,000) to help (or confuse) you. Most of them are from individual universities or professors who want to, once and for all, give their students the definitive guidelines for what is and what is not considered a scholarly article (I've attached one example below). In general, scholarly articles are written by experts in the field and are then peer-reviewed by other experts in the field. Determining what is and what is not a scholarly article is one potential difficulty in conducting research for a paper.

In terms of focus, many times scholarly articles are much too broad or, conversely, much too narrow for your specific topic. Finding an article that addresses your specific research needs without covering everything in one article (too broad) or having to find 10 narrowly focused articles to provide enough research for your subject (too narrow) can be a problem.

Sometimes the problem is the topic, not the research. If most articles cover everything you want to write about, perhaps your research subject is too general; in which case, you may need to narrow your topic to help you meet the research requirements you've been given. If you're having trouble finding enough research on your subject, perhaps your topic is too narrow and needs to be expanded to encompass some other, more researchable aspects of the subject matter you've chosen. In any case, finding research on just the right aspects of your topics can be challenging.

Timeliness has to do with how current your information is. While there are certainly some subjects which do not necessarily benefit from timeliness, such as, let's say, articles about Roman ruins, effective research requires that the most recent data and discoveries must be included. Even if you're writing paper on those Roman ruins, you have an obligation to include information on the most recent archaeological studies and discoveries. Adding this component to adds another layer of potential difficulty to the research process, though of course it makes for a better finished product.

Finally, all research must be faithfully and accurately presented, not taken out of context or used only in part. This requires careful reading and detailed diligence, and even then unintentional distortions of the data can occur. 

Research done well is a joy to the reader, and doing it well should also bring satisfaction to the writer.

jbarnum11 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The definition of research is investigating a topic through books, articles, etc and trying to form a hypothesis for the question at hand in order to fully answer your original question. Research becomes tricky because with the internet being the most prominent way to gather information, you must know what is credible and what is not. in addition, you must understand plagiarism and how to site correctly. Many sites guide you step by step on how to cite correctly and make sure you are giving credit to the original author and not taking it as your own.

chrisyhsun | Student

In simple terms, research is the process by which you (as the author of the research paper) gain knowledge and insight into the topic of research. All the searching and reading of encyclopedias, books, journals, and websites will help you not only comprehend the topic but also formulate your own ideas and voice that will then shine through the paper.

Research can be made more difficult in many ways. It may be that the topic of research is very obscure or narrow. This makes research difficult because it is hard to find many sources/viewpoints regarding the topic. On the flip side, researching a very broad topic is difficult too because of the sheer volume of available material and the seemingly endless ask of digesting them. Additionally, a lack of prior understanding of the subject matter can complicate research whether by making it harder to get in touch with the best resources or by making it harder to understand the information.