BTH740 Research Essay 20113

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BTH740 | Weekly Schedule | Research Projects | Research Essay | Student Resources

How To Write a Research Essay

Five Stages of Research

  • Survey and Critique
  • Thesis Statement
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Presentation

Survey and Critique

This is the abductive stage of forming a hypothesis.

There is no single logical procedure to implement here. We identify points of interest and guess at what might be the case for the observations that we are making.


  • Open-ended searches by the team members
  • Selections of interest to the team members
  • Identifying emotional reactions
  • Discussion amongst team members to identify conditions that might be sufficient and economical in explaining an observation or a set of similar observations

Thesis Statement

Requirements For the Final Essay

set by the instructor - what you need to know before starting to prepare the thesis statement

  • number of sources
    • primary >= 2
    • secondary >= 4
    • tertiary - summarize
  • length 1600-2400 words
  • late penalties 20%
  • timeline:
    • thesis statement - due November 1
    • preliminary research - due November 15
    • recording details - due November 22
    • writing - due December 1
    • publication - due December 8

Narrowing the Focus

select the topic

  • sources
    • encyclopedias
    • textbooks
    • dictionaries
    • videos
  • process
    • jot down ideas
    • discuss ideas
    • circle one that are of interest
    • select one from a short-list
    • select another as the alternative

Searching for Sources

create working bibliography

  • questions to answer
    • are there sufficient sources
    • is each one relevant to the focus
    • are the sources diverse
    • are the sources quality sources
    • are there twice as many sources as required
  • process
    • read
      • abstracts
      • conclusions
      • reviews
    • balance
      • books
      • articles
      • electronic
      • audio-visual
      • old
      • new
    • list publication details accurately

Defining the Purpose

  • single sentence plus keywords
  • discuss the thesis
    • discuss with two peers
    • refine the focus
    • define the scope
  • pose the research question
    • sufficient sources
    • narrow enough topic
    • avoid
      • bibliographical
      • narrative
      • descriptive
      • unfounded assumptions
    • how successful not why successful
  • formulate one precise sentence
  • task is to answer the question <- sole purpose
  • make short list of sub-tasks
  • identify keywords


  • thesis statement
  • keywords
  • bibliography


Preparatory Readings

purpose: rephrase the thesis statement

  • develop a fuller understanding of the topic
  • read some of the shorter sources
  • keep the research question in mind
  • rephrase your thesis

Record Research Data

purpose: create the research note record

  • maintain a well-balanced variety of source materials
  • question what you read and record continuously
  • read the prioritized sources carefully and in detail
  • analyze and select ideas and data related to your thesis
  • record all relevant information as research notes
    • for
    • against
  • review other sources for context, support and opposition
  • process
    • types of notes
      • direct quotations
      • personal insights
      • paraphrases
      • summarizations
    • method of documentation
      • note
      • page number
      • source number
    • major questions to keep in mind
      • does the note pertain to the thesis question
      • should I reconsider the focus
        • should I broaden the focus
        • should I narrow the focus further

Assemble and Prioritize

purpose: create a flowing argument

  • assemble the notes into major groups
  • arrange the notes within each group in order
  • distinguish deductive, inductive, and abductive conclusions


  • edited thesis statement
  • prioritized note record
  • outline of the argument



purpose: organize the flow

  • structure
    • introduction
    • body
      • arguments
    • conclusion
  • process
    • retain results that pertain to the thesis
    • create a skeleton
    • use point form

Rough Draft

purpose: compose the argument in ascending order of importance/interest

  • preface
    • title
    • abstract
    • keywords
  • introduction
    • context
    • purpose
    • interpretations
    • thesis statement
  • body
    • each point is one paragraph
  • conclusion
    • sum up supporting points
    • no new information
    • one to three paragraphs
  • references
    • works cited


purpose: create final draft

  • check instructor's requirements
    • format
    • layout
    • 1st person or third person
    • style
      • MLA (see Purdue OWL)
        • Margins 1" all around excluding page numbers
        • Times New Roman 12 point
        • no justification, no hyphenation, double space, two spaces after a period
        • no title page for a research paper
        • sentence case your title no bold no period
        • page numbering in upper right hand corner preceded by your last name
        • secure your pages with a paper clip no plastic folders
        • citations (Author pageNumber)
        • works cited LastName, FirstName. Title. City:Publisher, Year.
        • sites cited LastName, FirstName. Title. City:Publisher, Year. <>. Date of Access.
        • interviews LastName, FirstName. Type of Interview. Date.
        • list works cited in alphabetical order at the end of the paper starting on a new page
      • APA (see Purdue OWL)
        • citations (Author, Year, p.PageNumber)
        • works cited LastName, FirstName. (Year). Title. City:Publisher.
      • Chicago
      • CBE
      • ACM
  • expression
    • argument flow
    • paragraphing
      • circle the topic sentence in each
    • clarify your points
    • read out loud - use your auditory system - fix the jumps


  • source: Parberry, Ian (2000) How to Present a Paper in Theoretical Computer Science: A Speaker's Guide for Students, Dept. Comp. Sc., Univ North Texas. Denton, Texas.

What to Say How to Say it

  • communicate key ideas
    • emphasize key ideas
    • skip standard, obvious, or complicated
  • don't get bogged down in details
    • you have been thinking deeply for months
    • audience has not - is the paper worth reading?
    • details are out of place - leave them in the paper
  • structure your talk
    • break into distinct parts
  • use a top-down approach
    • introduction
      • informal description - impressions are important
      • define the problem
      • motivate the audience
        • explain why it is so important
      • introduce terminology
      • discuss earlier work
      • emphasize contributions of your paper
        • this may be the only points audience will remember
      • provide a road-map to the talk
    • body
      • abstract the major results or contributions
      • explain the significance of the results
      • sketch a proof of the crucial results
        • gloss over the technical details
    • technicalities
      • present a key result
        • give the flavour of the rest of the technical details in a short period of time
      • present it carefully
        • fill in small gaps
        • mention points that may not be in the paper itself
    • conclusion
      • hindsight is clear than foresight
        • make observation that would have been confusing earlier
        • regain the attention of non-experts in the audience
      • state open problems
        • identify problems that arise from your paper
        • mention weaknesses of your paper
        • indicate that your talk is over

Delivery - Getting through to your Audience

  • use repetition
    • "tell them what you're going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them
  • remind, don't assume
    • if your paper assumes a standard result, state it as a reminder
  • don't over-run
    • conference presentations last 15 to 30 minutes with 5 minutes for questions
    • if short on time, cut the technicalities section
  • maintain eye contact
    • spread your attention, don't concentrate on one person
  • control your voice
    • avoid fashion, hype, information-free utterances
  • control your motion
    • avoid hyperactivity
    • use natural gestures
  • take care of your appearance
    • avoid ostentatiousness
  • minimize language difficulties
  • try not to get anxious
    • prepare adequately beforehand
    • do not pay undue attention to the reaction of the most important person in the audience - their reactions may be the result of something that is totally unrelated to your presentation
    • to calm panic, pause, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths
    • it is the quality of your research that matters

Visual and Aural Aids

  • make legible slides
  • don't put too much on a slide - remember short-term memory
  • don't use too many slide- reserve 2 minutes per slide
  • use colour effectively - avoid rainbows - yellow is almost invisible
  • pictures and tables
    • pictures are worth a thousand words

Question Time

  • expect three types of questions
    • genuine request for knowledge
    • selfish - draws attention to the questioner - indirectly compliment them
    • malicious - expect to have your ego bruised - be prepared, be polite, and avoid lengthy exchanges - offer a one-to-one discussion afterwards