Writing is a recursive process. Writers must often refer to the steps of the writing process throughout a writing project:
Topics are often assigned to student writers. When working with an assigned topic, students should remember that a topic or focus is not the same as a thesis. Writers should choose topics and theses that are debatable, and that include at least two perspectives.
Once you have determined your topic and thesis, you can start to determine the structure of your essay by creating an outline. Your detailed outline should include notes on what support you plan to use for each component of the essay, so that you can use the outline as a reminder and guide during the drafting process.
Writers of argumentative research papers must allow extra time to research their primary subjects before beginning the process. They must take good research notes on source content and bibliographic data.
As you learned previously, all of this information can be organized in an annotated bibliography, which is a document that includes bibliographic data on each source the writer plans to use, and brief notes on sources and their possible use in the essay.
When researching, you also need to evaluate the credibility of each source while looking for quotations and other information (i.e., points of agreement and disagreement, and nuanced differences between the arguments).
The detailed outline should incorporate some of this information so that, during the drafting process, the writer can refer to it and the annotated bibliography to determine which source she originally planned to use where, and for what purpose.
Opinions can help a writer demonstrate her engagement with and passion for a subject. Most thesis statements begin with an opinion about a subject that has been developed and supported by research. It's also common for writers of argumentative research essays to cite and use the opinions of other writers— as support (through agreement) or to distinguish others' ideas from their own.
Because of the complicated nature of argumentation, it is important for writers to make it clear when they are expressing an opinion rather than a fact.
If, for instance, you were writing an argumentative essay about adoption, you might state the following opinion:
It's important to protect children who are put up for adoption, but when couples, individuals, and deserving children wait years for the bureaucratic wheels to turn and bring them together, something must be changed.
Then, if you added a fact to support your argument, you would need to make it clear that that's what you were doing, as shown below:
Though most adoptions in the U.S. take less than three months to finalize, exceptions abound, including 10% that take a whopping two years, or more (Adoptive Families, 2014).
As a result of the objective tone and and the parenthetical reference at the end of this last sentence, the reader would understand that you were presenting this as a fact rather than your opinion.
Although it can be difficult to do so, it's important to incorporate research artfully during the drafting process. When used well, research helps you to make your argument. Writers must thus avoid overusing quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. Excessive use of the words and ideas of others can overwhelm your own words, ideas, and points.
Here are several techniques that can enable you to use citations without losing your voice or perspective:
Outlines for argumentative research papers are useful guides that can help writers to avoid writer's block, but all writers must remember that an outline is a guide not a contract, meaning it should be revised as needed to make the best possible argument. Trust the writing process and remember that you'll have time to revise and edit more than one draft.
Recall that plagiarism is the presentation of the words or ideas of another as your own. In an academic context, this is cheating: it is unethical - and possibly illegal - in all contexts. To avoid plagiarism, writers of argumentative research papers must carefully note and reference the sources they use.
There are two kinds of plagiarism:
In addition, there isn't much difference between the two for writers who plagiarize, as the penalties are often the same. Each form of plagiarism is a failure to live up to the responsibility of all writers to treat their sources ethically and accurately.
When working on an argumentative research paper, writers should allow themselves extra time to revise and edit their drafts, and to proofread the final version before submitting it (to a professor, or for publication).
Revision may require significant changes to the argument, support, or ideas in a draft. It's important to make sure that you've used sources accurately and ethically, explained the value or relevance of their support for the argument, and fully developed your ideas and points.
When editing, you should make necessary changes in word choice and correct redundancies and awkward or repetitive sentences.
When proofreading, correct mechanical and grammatical errors, and anything that does not align with the assignment's prompts, requirements, and formatting guidelines.