There are two general types of college-level paper: research paper and
analytical paper. A research paper, strictly speaking, should be conducted
by utilizing statistical methods or experimental methods and
operationalizing the key research elements in the research process, such as
problem, hypothesis, research design, measurement, data collection, data
analysis, and generalization. Your term paper belongs to the latter. An
analytical paper can be further classified into “descriptive?and
“explanatory.?Your paper can be either a descriptive or explanatory
analytical paper. Both require you to explain something. If you
describe changes of institutions, patterns of behavior, or policies, you are
not simply describing them for nothing, but for explaining something. A
paper that merely reports what others have said or describes something will
give you neither psychic satisfaction nor a good grade. Your task is not
merely to assemble facts, but to interpret or explain the facts. An
analytical paper is the most basic one; but it is not easy to do a good
work. I will try to make it as simple and clear as possible in the
To do a good work on an
analytical paper, just as for any type of paper, the first thing you
need is to choose or set up a topic, such as “Human Rights Violations
in China?or “Democratic Transition: A comparative Study of Taiwan
and Vietnam,?which usually defines the parameters within which your
(research) question or a thesis is proposed, the relevant literature is
selected and integrated either to support or refute the thesis, your
evaluation is conducted based upon the criteria you set up, and some
conclusions you will draw based upon your evaluation.
work needs a thesis/theme for a paper that opens and closes the work.
The question you want to work on implies a thesis or theme. At the end
of your paper, you need to complete the “circle?by linking the
opening of your paper with the closing of the paper. With a thesis or
theme, you can work on integration and linkages of materials ?
paragraph to paragraph, literature to literature. With a thesis or
theme, you know what you want to do or what problem or puzzle you want
to solve ?you may defend or refute the thesis, or by doing so, you
may come up with a synthesis ?breaking the ground. For example, you
might want to develop a thesis, such as The Chinese Constitution
declares the guarantees of freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly,
association, and so forth for it citizens, but the reality is that the
Constitution is only a window dressing and the Chinese communist regime
only pays lip service to the civil/political rights of its citizens.
Then, you want to show your readers whether you are going to support or
refute this thesis, and how you are going to do so, such as historical
review, critical review, content analysis, or what. This is your
introduction (I. Introduction).
next step is the definitional work on some key terms and to establish
evaluation criteria by which you examine the state, development, change,
or reality of the subject matter. That is to say, you have to define the
key term, such as democratic transition or any key
concepts to be used in your paper. You can do this either in your
introduction section or do this as an individual part of the main body (II.
Defining Key Concepts). If you choose to do this in your introduction section, you will not have
this particular section, which means that you will simply borrow or
accept the definition of concepts established by other major work in the
literature. If you need an additional section for this work, you first
search the relevant literature to synthesize the material into different
definitions or contrasting views on democratic
transition by referring to some major work in the literature, because democratic transition could mean different
things to different peoples. Only by defining the key terms and establishing evaluation
criteria, your following examination can be valid and you can provide a valid justification
for your thesis developed in your introduction.
follows is to engage in the investigation of real world or examination
of empirical facts along some dimensions through a substantial literature
research. This is a
major part of the paper body (III.
Examination). If you want to explain why democratic transition has
occurred in South Korea, you need to examine those key causal variables
informed and identified by previous studies by scholars (which is
usually done in the literature review section) and provide sufficient
evidence to support your arguments. You need to organize the materials
in a systematic way and in a meaningful way. That is
to say, you have to work on the linkages and integration from paragraph
to paragraph, and from literature to literature.
of the results (IV. Analysis).
This is actually a concluding part of your paper. Or, this can be a
substantial part of the main body of your paper, if you want to have an
additional concluding section. You can do it either way; it is up to
you. Only listing or lumping facts together is not sufficient; instead you need to show that
you are able to draw conclusions from the materials under your
investigation (or you have studied). At this stage, you can apply the
criteria you have established in section
I or II and draw
conclusions from the material. Your conclusions are actually your
interpretation of the results of your evaluation of your subject, and
expected to support or restate the thesis you have proposed at the
beginning. By so doing you complete the circle.
This section should also include any insightful reflections and
thought on the discussion of the subject matter. If you choose to have
an additional concluding chapter, which is the most common way people
choose, you simply recapture, in brief fashion, the thesis proposed at the beginning, the major empirical evidence that supports or
refutes the thesis, and the conclusion you have made based upon your
the format of your paper is also essential. The format must always
include a title page, abstract if necessary, table of contents, text or
body of the paper, sections with subtitles, and footnotes or references. Do not forget to do the
Note: If you choose to do a research paper by utilizing statistical methods or
experimental methods, you must first discuss with me the key research
elements in the research process, such as problem, hypothesis, research
design, measurement, data collection, data analysis, and generalization.
I hope these general guidelines will
be helpful either for your efforts to write your paper or for your long-term
benefit at university. Work hard and commit yourself to excellence, and you
will always be highly rewarded. Thank you for choosing my class as the media
of your leaning process. Good luck and enjoy your work.
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