Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Apr 14, 2017     Views: 55370

In an opinion paper, you will focus on a topic about which you have personal thoughts, beliefs, or feelings.  Your goal is to persuade your reader that your position on this topic is the best one. You won’t accomplish that goal with a rant or diatribe. Instead, you will need to support your claim with facts, statistics, real-life examples or published research studies. So, despite its name, an opinion paper will require some research.

The most common research paper assignment (particularly in undergraduate courses) is a lot like a literature review. You will conduct a thorough search for scholarly sources about your chosen topic, then carefully read and summarize them. But beyond simply describing the books and articles that you read, your goal is to participate in the scholarly “conversation” surrounding your topic. You can do that by:

  • Organizing your paper by themes or trends that you discovered in the literature
  • Identifying and explaining controversies surrounding your topic
  • Pointing out strengths and weaknesses in the studies that you read
  • Identifying aspects of the topic that need further research

Sometimes (more commonly in graduate courses), you will design your own study and write about it. While this kind of research paper includes a literature review section, it will also require you to describe your study’s methodology, data analysis and results. The graduate section of Writing@APUS offers advice for students working on original research papers.

 

Are you new to library research? Click here to find some helpful tutorials.
 

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