What is a research essay, and how do I write one?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Research essays/papers are detailed essays that are often used as course-end evaluators of knowledge and skill. Research essays are products of detailed research that test your critical thinking and analysis abilities through your evaluation of data and organization of an argument supporting your original idea about a topic. The objective is two-fold. First, a research essay presents previous scholarship and research on the topic. Second, a research essay requires original analysis and evaluation that shows relationships between data and observations as they relate to your idea; this idea is called a thesis.

In other words, for your research essay you will read what has been been said already, perhaps conduct field work to collect original data, form an opinion on a particular aspect of or question on the topic, then show how all the research leads to your conclusion and thesis (or hypothesis). Your objective is to contribute new understanding to the topic within a wider field of study. One key component of a research essay is that you will summarize, paraphrase and quote other scholarship on the topic and cite the author of each idea as you summarize, paraphrase or quote it. Another key component is your original analysis and evaluation of material related to the topic.

The first step in writing a research essay is to compile research. Often, you will go through two rounds of research collection. The first, initial, round will provide the fodder for an opinion to assert on the topic or for raising a question to evaluate about the topic, as research essays may either argue an assertion or evaluate/analyze a question. After you have formed a stance to assert or a question to explore, you may very well need a second round of research to collect more information on your specific topic focus.

The composition of your research essay begins with an Introduction. This includes your thesis assertion or question. An Introduction functions to introduce the topic and its wider field of study; to identify your aim (what) and purpose (why) and means (how); and to present your idea in a thesis. The Introduction is followed by what is called the background section. This is where you provide an overview of previous scholarship on the topic. This section may require more length than your original analysis and evaluation of documentation.

Next follows your presentation of your arguments supporting your thesis, one argument to a paragraph. This is where you show off your analysis of your research material and where you make convincing cases for how each argument you present proves your thesis. You will present primary and secondary sources and correctly document each statement with a correct author citation. The evaluation section that follows your argumentation allows you to address what you see as weaknesses, strengths or biases in your research sources.

Your Conclusion is your final statement. It reiterates the thesis assertion you have made or question you have asked. It clearly states how you have proven or explored this and it summarizes your end results. For a final touch, you will make an observation of the relevance of your thesis; the applicability of it; or further study or analysis that is needed on it. 

kevin0001 | Student

A research essay is an essay where you write about an experiment or project that you have done or studied. To write one, you need to find out what you want to write about. After you have found it, you go online, look in books, etc. to find more information about your subject. This would be the research part of you research essay. Examples of researching your subject would be to look up the history or details of it. After you do your research, you get all of the important details you want to say and categorize them into paragraphs. Then, you put the paragraphs into essay form. Don't forget that you need introductory and concluding paragraphs to introduce and end your research. For an experiment, you write the steps, observations, results, etc. into an essay. 

rachellopez | Student

A research essay is an essay that informs someone about a certain topic. This type of essay will include historical facts and information about the topic of your choice. To write a research essay, you will have to look up a lot of information about you topic and organize it into a paper. Lets say you want to inform people about nail polish. You could look up the history of nail polish, who created it, how it is made, and it's uses in today's society. Write a thesis with your three main topics/supporting details and get writing! Don't forget to cite your sources.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

Research essay includes facts and a lot of information and it is detailed. TO write a research paper you need to gather a lot of information and then put it together. You create the introduction which includes the thesis (what you're going to talk about). In the introduction state your three points. In the Body paragraph you explain each points. In the conclusion is you sum up everything. Make sure to connect it to the thesis, so your research paper would be organized and so it would be a full-circle.