What Is An Analytical Research Paper

Analytical vs. Argumentative Research Papers

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When writing a research paper, you have the choice of two main approaches: analytical and argumentative. Sometimes your research assignment may specify which approach you should use, but sometimes the decision on how to approach your topic rests on your shoulders. The scope and purpose of your paper determines which approach is more suited to your topic.

While there are distinct differences between writing an analytical research paper and writing an argumentative research paper, there are some common principles as well:

  • Logical thinking is necessary.
  • Smart evaluation of information fuels what is included.
  • Comprehensive research of source material is conducted.

The major difference between the two research paper types is made in the process of writing, or presenting the topic. Analytical papers create a balanced, neutral approach to presenting a snapshot of an overall topic from which you draw conclusions, and argumentative papers create a debate between differing sides with a logical argument that favors one side of an argument over another.

The analytical research paper

Forming a research question is the basis of an analytical research paper. The question is neutral and provides direction for you to evaluate and explore the topic as it relates to answering the question. Your thesis statement presents the research question, and the remainder of your paper supports your thesis.

This type of research paper is not a simple regurgitation of information. Instead, it is your thoughts, conclusions and evaluations of a topic that is backed up with logical information. Several things are vital in formulating an analytical research paper:

  • You answer the research questions objectively.
  • You have no preconceived notions or opinions about the topic.
  • You evaluate the topic and draw conclusions from factual information from reliable sources.
  • You piece findings together to present the purpose of the paper.
  • You use serious contemplation and a critical evaluation to answer the research question.

The argumentative research paper

Taking one side of an issue or topic is the central point of an argumentative research paper. Your stance is built into the thesis statement, which makes the argument you feel is more logical for the given topic. The biggest goal of this type of paper is to convince your readers to agree with your point of view by backing up your position with a logical argument supported by facts and information from credible sources.

An argumentative research paper does not simply demand readers agree with you based solely on your opinion. Instead, careful and structured research is used to demonstrate the viability of your argument by providing information that allows readers to draw the same logical conclusion. There are several things that are crucial in writing this type of paper:

  • You use logical persuasion to build your argument in order to convince readers.
  • You clearly state your argument or stance in the thesis statement.
  • You introduce the topic sufficiently before taking a stance.
  • You use credible sources to back up your position and include information about the opposing view.
  • You use critical evaluation to create a logical argument.

Regardless of which research paper type you are undertaking, the backbone of writing a great paper starts with conducting thorough and structured research, using effective note-taking strategies and forming a strong thesis statement. While the thesis statement you start with may evolve as you write your paper, an analytical research paper has a more fluid thesis than an argumentative one; the thesis statement may undergo more changes as you begin outlining, writing a rough draft or finalizing your paper.

As you work through the organization process of writing a research paper, stay aware of which approach your topic requires to stay focused on the right aspects of the topic. If you are writing with an analytical approach, use an objective and logical presentation of facts to answer your research question. If you are writing with an argumentative approach, use logical thinking and an accurate representation of both sides of an issue while persuading your audience to reach the same conclusions you do.

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Analytical Research Paper and Proposal
Self- Assessment Checklist for Writers

Your analytical research paper for this class will be evaluated based on the following criteria. Before you turn in your paper, let it rest a day or two and then reread it with these criteria in mind. You may also want to exchange your paper another person in the class.

Research Proposal Guidelines

Students must submit a brief (200-300 word) description of the topic they’ll be examining in their Research Paper. This assignment must include the following:
1. An overall description of the subject of the paper
2. A thesis statement
3. A summary of the essay’s main points.
Proposals for research topics must be turned in for approval by the instructor by the date shown on the schedule. They will not be graded formally; they will receive comments only (based on the rubric below) rather than being graded for content and will receive full credit if turned in on time.



OK/Good if Developed

Needs Work

Topic: Appropriate for research paper




1. interesting or original approach to the topic;




2. focuses on author(s) and issues in the course;




3. limited enough to be completed in the time available









1. Arguable and not a statement of fact or generalities




2. Limited enough so that research paper will be fully developed




3. Unified so that research paper will not stray from the topic





Scholarly sources Identifies at least two scholarly sources.




Main arguments or points




Research Paper Checklist

Criteria for Evaluation


1. Development and Analysis

  1. Does the paper include sufficient analysis, enough for an 6-8 page paper?
  2. Does it significantly expand the reader’s understanding of the text or concept? Is the analysis of high quality, making in-depth, original, and interesting points about the work?
  3. Does the analysis look closely at the language and themes of the text?
  4. Are assertions backed up by references to the text, including specific quotations?
  5. Are the quotations analyzed sufficiently?
  6. Does the paper consist of summaries of the plot?
  7. Does the paper simply repeat obvious information or generalizations?
  8. If quotations are used, are they just summed up with statements such as “This is how the author thought about X issue” instead of being analyzed?
  9. Are there any parts of the paper that seem irrelevant or tangential to the argument?




2. Structure


  1. Does the introduction introduce the title and author of the works being discussed? Does it explain the scope of the paper (what the paper will discuss)?
  2. Does the paper have a clear thesis stated in the introduction?
  3. Does the thesis meet the three criteria for a thesis?
    1. To be limited enough for the the assignment.
    2. To be arguable and not be merely a statement of fact or a generalization.
    3. To be unified sufficiently around a central idea.
  4. Does the introduction contain non-thesis statements such as "In this paper I will discuss X story"?
  5. Is the development of the thesis and the progression of the argument apparent throughout the paper?
  6. Does the conclusion indicate what was accomplished or proven in the paper?


  1. Can the reader readily understand what each individual paragraph contributes to the argument?
  2. Does the paper use topic sentences, transitions, and other features to create coherence and structure?
  3. Are the paragraphs unified? Does each paragraph develop a single point (or set of points related to one idea)?
  4. Are the paragraphs coherent? Do the sentences within them "hang together" so that the analysis is smoothly developed?
  5. Are the paragraphs complete or fully developed? Do they contain appropriate levels of analysis and supporting evidence (such as quotations)?

3. Style

  1. Is the quality of writing at the site clear and fluent?
  2. Are the sentences grammatically correct, even if some are choppy or wordy?
  3. Are there instances of awkward phrasing, vagueness, wordiness, incorrect word use, or other problems?
  4. Do major errors such as comma splices, fragments, and fused sentences appear in the text?
  5. Are the sentences free from errors in parallelism, agreement, pronoun reference, tense shifts, and so on?
  6. Does the paper include an appropriate level of formality?
  7. Does it substitute statements of reaction (I think/I feel/I liked/I was disappointed in) for actual analysis?

4. Sources

  1. Are the sources used legitimate scholarly sources, such as peer-reviewed journals or books?
  2. Does the paper cite at least two scholarly sources (not Wikipedia or online pages but articles published in journals or books)?
  3. Do the sources contribute to the author’s argument, and does the author make it clear how they support it?

5. Mechanics

  1. Are the mechanical features of writing (capitalization, punctuation, and so on) correct?
  2. Are quotations introduced correctly, with appropriate signal phrases?
  3. Are there any “dropped quotations”?
  4. Are titles punctuated correctly?

6. Format

  1. Is a Works Cited page included?
  2. Does the Works Cited page use the correct MLA format?
  3. Are sources cited correctly using MLA style?
  4. Does the paper include page numbers, a title, and an appropriate header (name, date, and so on)?
  5. Are the pages numbered?




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