Research paper? What image comes into mind as you hear those words: working with stacks of articles and books, hunting the "treasure" of others thoughts? Whatever image you create, it is a sure bet that you are envisioning sources of information--articles, books, people, artworks. Yet a research paper is more than the sum of your sources, more than a collection of different pieces of information about a topic, and more than a review of the literature in a field. A research paper analyzes a perspective or argues a point. Regardless of the type of research paper you are writing, your finished research paper should present your own thinking backed up by others ideas and information.
Although you may be limited by specific classroom or work related guidelines, choosing your topic is the first and most important step in your research paper project. Regardless of whether your topic can be anything you want or has rigid requirements, it is important to keep a few questions in mind: Is there enough research available on this topic? Is the topic new and unique enough that I can offer fresh opinions? Is it pertinent to my class/occupation?
An argumentative research paper takes a position on a contentious issue and argues for one point of view. The issue should be debatable with a logical counter argument.
An analytic research paper offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit. This is not simply a regurgitation of ideas from your research, but an offering of your own unique ideas based on what you have learned through research.