Regardless of the type of research paper you're writing your finished paper should be a presentation of your own thinking backed up by the ideas or information of others in the field. However, whether your paper is ANALYTICAL (uses evidence to analyze facets of an issue) or ARGUMENTATIVE (uses evidence to attempt to convince the reader of your particular stance on a debatable topic), is definitely going to have a bearing on your strategy from here on in. In fact, it will determine your paper's purpose. So here's a more thorough discussion of the difference between the two types, followed by a concrete example that directly compares the two.
Analytical Research Paper
To analyze means to break a topic or concept down into its parts in order to inspect and understand it, and to restructure those parts in a way that makes sense to you. In an analytical research paper, you do research to become an expert on a topic so that you can restructure and present the parts of the topic from your own perspective.
In this brand of research paper, therefore, you go into the researching stage with a specific topic about which you have not made any kind of conclusions. Often you will hear this called your research question. Your task is to survey the information and views already out there--both before and once you become familiar with the topic. That will require critical thinking and reading, plus evaluation of the resources you handle. By the end of the paper you will be able to contribute your own thoughts to the academic discussion by drawing some conclusions about the topic you have just analyzed.
Argumentative / Persuasive Research Paper
In addition to the concept of critical thinking (which any paper at the university level will demand of you), another widely-used term at the college level which you may or may not be familiar with in its academic context, is the term argument. This is the basis of the persuasive kind of research paper.
A series of generalizations or propositions, supported by evidence or reasoning and connected in a logical manner, that lead to a justified conclusion. You must sustain your argument by giving evidence and reasons.
In direct contrast to the analytical paper, your approach here is to take a stand on an issue and use evidence to back-up your stance, not to explore or flesh out an unresolved topic. We have included an entire step just on this aspect of the research paper writing process, but it's probably worth your while now to know that this stance, this debatable statement or interpretation is known as your thesis.
In direct contrast to the analytical paper, your approach here is to take a stand on an issue and use evidence to back-up your stance, not to explore or flesh out an unresolved topic.
Argumentative or persuasive papers, as these names suggest, are attempts--after all, essay does come from the French word essai, or "attempt"--to convince the reader of a debatable or controversial point of view.