✍️Different Types of Research Papers 🦋 Discover What Makes Each One Special

6 types of research papers: how to tell them apart

Research papers are the second most common writing assignment in college, second only to the ubiquitous essay. The trouble is professors expect you to know how to write them without actually teaching you how to do that. We’re here to pick up the slack and teach you how to tell the difference between six common types of research papers. Our insights will help you analyze the prompt to identify the type of research paper and use the right structure and tone to check every box on the professor’s rubric.

What Is a Research Paper?

A research paper is an academic paper that provides argumentation, analysis, and interpretation of a topic based on independent research. The latter can be purely theoretical and based on a literature review or practical, including experiments or surveys.

Writing a research paper involves a time-consuming prewriting stage that covers literature analysis, experiment planning, and outlining the paper. In some cases, you may be required to submit a research proposal before working on the actual paper.

The research paper formatting differs depending on the school, program, and formatting style. However, each piece usually follows the same basic structure that includes an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, research findings, discussion, and conclusion. Still, the specifics can differ slightly for various types of research papers.

Top 6 Different Types of Research Papers

Before we dive into the descriptions of the various types of research papers, we should mention you won’t see these specific names in your prompts. Most professors do not specify the type of paper they expect you to submit. Instead, they include specific keywords in the prompts to guide your writing. We’ll help you find and use them to your advantage. And while there are more than six categories of research papers, we’ll focus on the most common types to help you familiarize yourself with their requirements and boost your grades.

By the way, if you’d like to learn more about types of case study and other assignments, our blog has you covered, too.

Analytical Research Paper

Let’s start with the most common type of research paper. An analytical research paper requires you to formulate a research question and analyze potential answers based on existing research and findings.

The common keywords you’ll likely see in the assignment prompt include: analyze, examine, evaluate, investigate, develop.
To score a high grade for an analytical research paper, remember a few key requirements:
  1. Use at least the minimum required number of sources. The more references you cite, the more reliable and convincing your findings will be. You should also explain your reasoning for choosing specific sources, especially if they are not relatively recent or well-respected.
  2. Seek out commonalities and differences in various takes. Categorize the information you find as you go to speed up the writing process. And highlight the core findings of this analysis in your thesis statement within the introduction.
  3. Supplement source material with your in-depth analysis. The biggest mistake you can make is to submit a compilation of research data without a single original idea. Your analysis of the data should take up at least 50% of the word count.
  4. Be objective. You may present opposing views and takes on the problem, but the analytical paper does not call for your personal opinion on their merit or a compelling argument in favor of either side.
Although the four guidelines above apply to most types of research papers, they are especially pertinent for an analytical one.

Argumentative Research Paper

Unlike the previous type of research paper (analytical), an argumentative research paper aims to compel the reader to take your side of the issue. So while you’ll still need to present two or more points of view and analyze multiple sources, you will also need to formulate your take and provide solid arguments to support it.

The keywords you may encounter in an assignment prompt for an argumentative research paper include: discuss, challenge, dispute, question, and suggest.

To ensure your research paper scores a top mark, remember a few simple guidelines:
  1. Specify your position early on. It should be clear from the introduction and the thesis statement. If it’s missing, most professors will subtract points from your final grade.
  2. Discuss two or more points of view. Choose the appropriate number of takes for the scope of your paper. If you select too few positions, the piece may look sparse, but if you overdo it, your research may look too rushed and cramped.
  3. Remain objective in your argumentation. Although it may be tempting to use emotional persuasive techniques, argumentative papers should only rely on hard facts and evidence presented in a logical manner. As you use numbers or quotes, be careful to cite every reference to avoid unintentional plagiarism.
As you see, while argumentative and analytical research projects may seem similar, there’s a core difference between the two types that should guide your outlining and writing process. Mixing up the two genres will not endear you to the professor, so if you’re unsure which approach to choose, consult the TA or professor to guarantee you adopt the right mindset from the start.

Cause and Effect Research Paper

The name of the cause and effect research paper should tell you everything you need to know about this type of research paper. Your project should consider the reasons and consequences of events, actions, or issues.

The common assignment prompt keywords to look for include: cause, reason, lead, affect, result, etc.

Like other types of research papers, the cause and effect projects should combine reference data with original analysis. However, the biggest challenge lies in finding the best layout for the paper, especially when there are multiple causes and effects you need to account for. To find an ideal outline, we suggest using sticky notes or a mind map to first specify all the causes and effects you wish to cover before drawing connections between them. Once you visualize the connections network, you should be able to come up with a logical way of describing it in your paper.

Interpretative Research Paper

Interpretative papers require you to analyze a specific issue and provide an original interpretation supported by secondary sources. It can be an exposition of a court case, a piece of literature, or a movie. These types of research papers are common among Law, Medicine, and Nursing majors, as well as Liberal Arts classes.

You can expect the assignment prompt to include such keywords as: deconstruct, explain, meaning, expose, elucidate, etc.

The key to a successful interpretative project is combining your understanding of the primary source with the accepted interpretations presented across several secondary sources. But as always, your original ideas should account for at least 50% of the paper to score a high grade.

Experimental Research Paper

An experimental research paper is a close cousin of scientific research articles published in scholarly journals. These projects require you to plan, describe, and conduct an experiment and present and analyze its results. As such, this research paper type is common in hard sciences like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and other STEM fields.

A typical prompt for an experimental research paper will likely include such keywords: test, trial, investigate, examine, observe, etc.

For this type of research paper, the methodology and findings sections are as crucial as the literature analysis. And we recommend you skim a couple of respectable publications to get a clear idea of what these parts of the paper should look like. We also suggest choosing an appropriate way to visualize your findings to make them easier to interpret and communicate.

Survey Research Paper

A survey research paper is similar to the previous (experimental) type in that it requires you to conduct actual research instead of relying solely on reference data. However, instead of planning an experiment, you’ll need to conduct surveys and present their results. This kind of research paper is extremely common in Humanities, such as Gender Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, and other classes.

The assignment keywords you can expect to find in the prompt include: questionnaire, poll, investigate, sample, opinion, inquiry, etc.
When working on these types of research papers, follow a few rules:
  • Be extra specific with the survey methodology, including sample size, sampling techniques, etc.
  • Ensure your survey follows the best practices accepted in the field of study.
  • Delineate ethical considerations in your paper, if any apply.
  • Preserve survey questions and responses’ raw data and be ready to add it to your paper in the form of appendices.
Survey papers are exciting but challenging, so remember to give yourself enough time to plan and conduct the polls before structuring and analyzing the data.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this short post helps you interpret research paper prompts and fulfill the requirements for each type to get the top grade. But if you’re still nervous about your score, consider using our paper writing service to improve your chances of success. You can pay for a research paper on Law, Nursing, or STEM, and we’ll match you with the best legal, engineering, or nursing paper writers on our team.