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ENGL 414

Research Writing

Wrapping Up a Project

Now that you are farther along on your research journey, you’ll need to put all of your research, reading, and notes together into a final project. That is easier said than done. This page features 5 key steps toward concluding a research project and information related to each:

  • Writing a literature review
  • Putting sources to work in your own writing
  • Developing effective arguments 
  • Refining your prose to communicate clearly
  • Following appropriate style and citation practices

Related Guides

Understanding the Literature

The literature review is the foundation of any research paper. It is a specialized type of writing that takes practice to perfect. A review of literature provides an overview of the scholarly conversation related to your research question. It surveys a range of other scholars’ writing (the “literature”), synthesizes that disparate literature, and discusses it in an informative and organized manner. The literature review will ultimately lay the foundation of the research you produce as you create new knowledge that extends, challenges, or remedies gaps in the existing scholarly conversation. 


This is a guide for how to write Literature Reviews

Using Sources Like a Researcher Should

Many novice researchers try to pull key quotations from sources they read—or skim—and thus fail to critically engage with those sources. Writing scholar Joseph Bizup has developed a four-part method (BEAM) for determining what kind of source each piece of information will serve in your research writing. Any piece of information, according to Bizup, will function as one of the following: 

Background (information that provides general contextual or background detail)

Exhibition (information that provides evidence or an example to analyze)

Argument (information that you engage to argue a claim)

Method (information that enables use or engagement with a method, or manner of analysis)

Read Bizup’s essay for more detail: 

Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27.1 (2008): 72-86. 

Developing Effective Arguments

If you have not taken a persuasive writing course you might do a little self-study in order to enhance your argument-writing capabilities. 

The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provides a good, basic overview of effective arguments. 

Other helpful resources include Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams’s The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. This text includes an entire section devoted to teaching readers how to develop useful claims. 

Additionally, searching online for the Toulmin Method of argumentation will yield information on this easy-to-follow method of creating a defensible and logical argument.

Refining Your Writing for Clarity and Comprehension

Although helping you work on the sentence-level stylistics of your writing is beyond the scope of this library guide, it is worth mentioning the benefit of making your research writing accessible for your readers. Some research writers may attempt to complicate their prose—either because they imagine that doing so makes them sound smart or because the complexity of their ideas influences the presentation of those ideas through words. In any case, impenetrable writing likely will not endear your readers. As you work on your project try the following: 

Read a passage out loud. Listen to how your writing sounds; your ears will let you know when your wording is too complicated, convoluted, or confusing. 

Compress wordiness by identifying and omitting prepositional phrases. Too many in one sentence will usually render it unclear and clunky, to boot. 

Check out this 2-minute read to remind yourself of why sentence-level revision is time well spent: “The Secret to Sounding Smart? Use Simple Language” 

Following Guidance for Citations and Style

Hopefully you already know what style guide you should be using for your project, given your disciplinary expectations or the requirement of a professor or the outlet (e.g., journal, granting agency) to which you are sending your research. If you are not sure which style guide to use, reference this web page that provides an overview of the primary guides used by researchers in various fields. 

Also keep in mind that while citations (in-text and bibliographic) are a main focus of style guides, such manuals also provide other key instructions such as how to format a manuscript, title your work, label items (such as tables, figures, and illustrations), etc. 

(You said that you might have a good link for style guides . . . could add here if you’d like.)

Subject Guide

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Anna Bjartmarsdottir