URP 3104 – Land use management and theory for 14/Urp.



Purpose of
Research Writing
Learning Objectives
1. Identify reasons to research
writing projects.
2. Outline the steps of the
research writing process.
Why was the Great Wall of China
built? What have scientists learned
about the possibility of life on Mars?
What roles did women play in the
American Revolution? How does the
human brain create, store, and
retrieve memories? Who invented the
game of football, and how has it
changed over the years?
You may know the answers to these
questions off the top of your head. If
you are like most people, however,
you find answers to tough questions
like these by searching the Internet,
visiting the library, or asking others
for information. To put it simply, you
perform research.
Whether you are a scientist, an artist,
a paralegal, or a parent, you probably
perform research in your everyday
life. When your boss, your instructor,
or a family member asks you a
question that you do not know the
answer to, you locate relevant
information, analyze your findings,
and share your results. Locating,
analyzing, and sharing information
are key steps in the research process,
and in this chapter, you will learn
more about each step. By developing
your research writing skills, you will
prepare yourself to answer any
question no matter how challenging.
Reasons for Research
When you perform research, you are
essentially trying to solve a mystery—
you want to know how something
works or why something happened. In
other words, you want to answer a
question that you (and other people)
have about the world. This is one of
the most basic reasons for performing
But the research process does not end
when you have solved your mystery.
Imagine what would happen if a
detective collected enough evidence
to solve a criminal case, but she never
shared her solution with the
authorities. Presenting what you have
learned from research can be just as
important as performing the research.
Research results can be presented in a
variety of ways, but one of the most
popular—and effective—presentation
forms is the research paper. A
research paper presents an original
thesis, or purpose statement, about a
topic and develops that thesis with
information gathered from a variety
of sources.
If you are curious about the
possibility of life on Mars, for
example, you might choose to
research the topic. What will you do,
though, when your research is
complete? You will need a way to put
your thoughts together in a logical,
coherent manner. You may want to
use the facts you have learned to
create a narrative or to support an
argument. And you may want to show
the results of your research to your
friends, your teachers, or even the
editors of magazines and journals.
Writing a research paper is an ideal
way to organize thoughts, craft
narratives or make arguments based
on research, and share your newfound
knowledge with the world.
Exercise 1
Write a paragraph about a time
when you used research in your
everyday life. Did you look for the
cheapest way to travel from
Houston to Denver? Did you search
for a way to remove gum from the
bottom of your shoe? In your
paragraph, explain what you
wanted to research, how you
performed the research, and what
you learned as a result.
Research Writing and the Academic
No matter what field of study you are
interested in, you will most likely be
asked to write a research paper
during your academic career. For
example, a student in an art history
course might write a research paper
about an artist’s work. Similarly, a
student in a psychology course might
write a research paper about current
findings in childhood development.
Having to write a research paper may
feel intimidating at first. After all,
researching and writing a long paper
requires a lot of time, effort, and
organization. However, writing a
research paper can also be a great
opportunity to explore a topic that is
particularly interesting to you. The
research process allows you to gain
expertise on a topic of your choice,
and the writing process helps you
remember what you have learned and
understand it on a deeper level.
Research Writing at Work
Knowing how to write a good research
paper is a valuable skill that will serve
you well throughout your career.
Whether you are developing a new
product, studying the best way to
perform a procedure, or learning
about challenges and opportunities in
your field of employment, you will use
research techniques to guide your
exploration. You may even need to
create a written report of your
findings. And because effective
communication is essential to any
company, employers seek to hire
people who can write clearly and
Writing at Work
Take a few minutes to think about
each of the following careers. How
might each of these professionals
use researching and research
writing skills on the job?
Medical laboratory technician
Small business owner
Information technology
Freelance magazine writer
A medical laboratory technician or
information technology professional
might do research to learn about
the latest technological
developments in either of these
fields. A small business owner
might conduct research to learn
about the latest trends in his or her
industry. A freelance magazine
writer may need to research a given
topic to write an informed, up-to-
date article.
Exercise 2
Think about the job of your
dreams. How might you use
research writing skills to perform
that job? Create a list of ways in
which strong researching,
organizing, writing, and critical
thinking skills could help you
succeed at your dream job. How
might these skills help you obtain
that job?
Steps of the Research Writing
How does a research paper grow from
a folder of brainstormed notes to a
polished final draft? No two projects
are identical, but most projects follow
a series of six basic steps.
These are the steps in the research
writing process:
1. Choose a topic.
2. Plan and schedule time to
research and write.
3. Conduct research.
4. Organize research and ideas.
5. Draft your paper.
6. Revise and edit your paper.
Each of these steps will be discussed
in more detail later in this chapter.
For now, though, we will take a brief
look at what each step involves.
Step 1: Choosing a Topic
As you may recall from Chapter 8
“The Writing Process: How Do I
Begin?” , to narrow the focus of your
topic, you may try freewriting
exercises, such as brainstorming. You
may also need to ask a specific
research question —a broad, open-
ended question that will guide your
research—as well as propose a
possible answer, or a working thesis .
You may use your research question
and your working thesis to create a
research proposal . In a research
proposal, you present your main
research question, any related
subquestions you plan to explore, and
your working thesis.
Step 2: Planning and Scheduling
Before you start researching your
topic, take time to plan your
researching and writing schedule.
Research projects can take days,
weeks, or even months to complete.
Creating a schedule is a good way to
ensure that you do not end up being
overwhelmed by all the work you
have to do as the deadline
During this step of the process, it is
also a good idea to plan the resources
and organizational tools you will use
to keep yourself on track throughout
the project. Flowcharts, calendars, and
checklists can all help you stick to
your schedule. See Chapter 11
“Writing from Research: What Will I
Learn?” , Section 11.2 “Steps in
Developing a Research Proposal” for
an example of a research schedule.
Step 3: Conducting Research
When going about your research, you
will likely use a variety of sources—
anything from books and periodicals
to video presentations and in-person
Your sources will include both
primary sources and secondary
sources. Primary sources provide
firsthand information or raw data. For
example, surveys, in-person
interviews, and historical documents
are primary sources. Secondary
sources, such as biographies, literary
reviews, or magazine articles, include
some analysis or interpretation of the
information presented. As you
conduct research, you will take
detailed, careful notes about your
discoveries. You will also evaluate the
reliability of each source you find.
Step 4: Organizing Research and the
Writer’s Ideas
When your research is complete, you
will organize your findings and decide
which sources to cite in your paper.
You will also have an opportunity to
evaluate the evidence you have
collected and determine whether it
supports your thesis, or the focus of
your paper. You may decide to adjust
your thesis or conduct additional
research to ensure that your thesis is
well supported.
Remember, your working thesis is
not set in stone. You can and should
change your working thesis
throughout the research writing
process if the evidence you find
does not support your original
thesis. Never try to force evidence
to fit your argument. For example,
your working thesis is “Mars cannot
support life-forms.” Yet, a week
into researching your topic, you
find an article in the New York
Times detailing new findings of
bacteria under the Martian surface.
Instead of trying to argue that
bacteria are not life forms, you
might instead alter your thesis to
“Mars cannot support complex life-
Step 5: Drafting Your Paper
Now you are ready to combine your
research findings with your critical
analysis of the results in a rough
draft. You will incorporate source
materials into your paper and discuss
each source thoughtfully in relation to
your thesis or purpose statement.
When you cite your reference sources,
it is important to pay close attention
to standard conventions for citing
sources in order to avoid plagiarism,
or the practice of using someone
else’s words without acknowledging
the source. Later in this chapter, you
will learn how to incorporate sources
in your paper and avoid some of the
most common pitfalls of attributing
Step 6: Revising and Editing Your
In the final step of the research
writing process, you will revise and
polish your paper. You might
reorganize your paper’s structure or
revise for unity and cohesion,
ensuring that each element in your
paper flows into the next logically and
naturally. You will also make sure that
your paper uses an appropriate and
consistent tone.
Once you feel confident in the
strength of your writing, you will edit
your paper for proper spelling,
grammar, punctuation, mechanics,
and formatting. When you complete
this final step, you will have
transformed a simple idea or question
into a thoroughly researched and
well-written paper you can be proud
Exercise 3
Review the steps of the research
writing process. Then answer the
questions on your own sheet of
1. In which steps of the
research writing process are
you allowed to change your
2. In step 2, which types of
information should you include
in your project schedule?
3. What might happen if you
eliminated step 4 from the
research writing process?
Key Takeaways
People undertake research
projects throughout their
academic and professional
careers in order to answer
specific questions, share their
findings with others, increase
their understanding of
challenging topics, and
strengthen their researching,
writing, and analytical skills.
The research writing process
generally comprises six steps:
choosing a topic, scheduling
and planning time for research
and writing, conducting
research, organizing research
and ideas, drafting a paper, and
revising and editing the paper.
This is a derivative of WRITING FOR
SUCCESS by a publisher who has
requested that they and the original
author not receive attribution,
originally released and is used under
CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless
otherwise expressly stated, is licensed
under a Creative Commons
ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Writing for Success


Learning Objectives
1. Explain the limitations of
common sense when it comes
to achieving a detailed and
accurate understanding of
human behavior.
2. Give several examples of
common sense or folk
psychology that are incorrect.
3. Define skepticism and its
role in scientific psychology.
Can We Rely on Common
Some people wonder whether the
scientific approach to psychology is
necessary. Can we not reach the same
conclusions based on common sense
or intuition? Certainly we all have
intuitive beliefs about people’s
behavior, thoughts, and feelings—and
these beliefs are collectively referred
to as folk psychology . Although much
of our folk psychology is probably
reasonably accurate, it is clear that
much of it is not. For example, most
people believe that anger can be
relieved by “letting it out”—perhaps
by punching something or screaming
loudly. Scientific research, however,
has shown that this approach tends to
leave people feeling more angry, not
less (Bushman, 2002). Likewise, most
people believe that no one would
confess to a crime that he or she had
not committed, unless perhaps that
person was being physically tortured.
But again, extensive empirical
research has shown that false
confessions are surprisingly common
and occur for a variety of reasons
(Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004).
Some Great Myths
In 50 Great Myths of Popular
Psychology , psychologist Scott
Lilienfeld and colleagues discuss
several widely held commonsense
beliefs about human behavior that
scientific research has shown to be
incorrect (Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, &
Beyerstein, 2010). Here is a short
“People use only 10% of their
brain power.”
“Most people experience a
midlife crisis in their 40’s or
“Students learn best when
teaching styles are matched to
their learning styles.”
“Low self-esteem is a major
cause of psychological
“Psychiatric admissions and
crimes increase during full
How Could We Be So Wrong?
How can so many of our intuitive
beliefs about human behavior be so
wrong? Notice that this is a
psychological question, and it just so
happens that psychologists have
conducted scientific research on it and
identified many contributing factors
(Gilovich, 1991). One is that forming
detailed and accurate beliefs requires
powers of observation, memory, and
analysis to an extent that we do not
naturally possess. It would be nearly
impossible to count the number of
words spoken by the women and men
we happen to encounter, estimate the
number of words they spoke per day,
average these numbers for both
groups, and compare them—all in our
heads. This is why we tend to rely on
mental shortcuts in forming and
maintaining our beliefs. For example,
if a belief is widely shared—especially
if it is endorsed by “experts”—and it
makes intuitive sense, we tend to
assume it is true. This is compounded
by the fact that we then tend to focus
on cases that confirm our intuitive
beliefs and not on cases that
disconfirm them. This is called
confirmation bias. For example, once
we begin to believe that women are
more talkative than men, we tend to
notice and remember talkative women
and silent men but ignore or forget
silent women and talkative men. We
also hold incorrect beliefs in part
because it would be nice if they were
true. For example, many people
believe that calorie-reducing diets are
an effective long-term treatment for
obesity, yet a thorough review of the
scientific evidence has shown that
they are not (Mann et al., 2007).
People may continue to believe in the
effectiveness of dieting in part
because it gives them hope for losing
weight if they are obese or makes
them feel good about their own “self-
control” if they are not.
Scientists—especially psychologists—
understand that they are just as
susceptible as anyone else to intuitive
but incorrect beliefs. This is why they
cultivate an attitude of skepticism.
Being skeptical does not mean being
cynical or distrustful, nor does it
mean questioning every belief or
claim one comes across (which would
be impossible anyway). Instead, it
means pausing to consider
alternatives and to search for
evidence—especially systematically
collected empirical evidence—when
there is enough at stake to justify
doing so. Imagine that you read a
magazine article that claims that
giving children a weekly allowance is
a good way to help them develop
financial responsibility. This is an
interesting and potentially important
claim (especially if you have kids).
Taking an attitude of skepticism,
however, would mean pausing to ask
whether it might be instead that
receiving an allowance merely teaches
children to spend money—perhaps
even to be more materialistic. Taking
an attitude of skepticism would also
mean asking what evidence supports
the original claim. Is the author a
scientific researcher? Is any scientific
evidence cited? If the issue was
important enough, it might also mean
turning to the research literature to
see if anyone else had studied it.
Because there is often not enough
evidence to fully evaluate a belief or
claim, scientists also cultivate
tolerance for uncertainty . They accept
that there are many things that they
simply do not know. For example, it
turns out that there is no scientific
evidence that receiving an allowance
causes children to be more financially
responsible, nor is there any scientific
evidence that it causes them to be
materialistic. Although this kind of
uncertainty can be problematic from a
practical perspective—for example,
making it difficult to decide what to
do when our children ask for an
allowance—it is exciting from a
scientific perspective. If we do not
know the answer to an interesting and
empirically testable question, science
may be able to provide the answer.
Key Takeaways
People’s intuitions about
human behavior, also known as
folk psychology, often turn out
to be wrong. This is one
primary reason that psychology
relies on science rather than
common sense.
Researchers in psychology
cultivate certain critical-
thinking attitudes. One is
skepticism. They search for
evidence and consider
alternatives before accepting a
claim about human behavior as
true. Another is tolerance for
uncertainty. They withhold
judgment about whether a
claim is true or not when there
is insufficient evidence to
Practice: For each of the
following intuitive beliefs
about human behavior, list
three reasons that it might be
true and three reasons that it
might not be true:
a. You cannot truly love
another person unless you
love yourself.
b. People who receive
“crisis counseling”
immediately after
experiencing a traumatic
event are better able to
cope with that trauma in
the long term.
c. Studying is most
effective when it is always
done in the same location.
Bushman, B. J. (2002). Does venting
anger feed or extinguish the flame?
Catharsis, rumination, distraction,
anger, and aggressive responding.
Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 28, 724–731.
Gilovich, T. (1991). How we know what
isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason
in everyday life. New York, NY: Free
Kassin, S. M., & Gudjonsson, G. H.
(2004). The psychology of confession
evidence: A review of the literature
and issues. Psychological Science in the
Public Interest, 5 , 33–67.
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J.,
& Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great
myths of popular psychology . Malden,
MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling,
E., Lew, A., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J.
(2007). Medicare’s search for effective
obesity treatments: Diets are not the
answer. American Psychologist, 62,
This is a derivative of RESEARCH
publisher who has requested that they
and the original author not receive
attribution, which was originally
released and is used under CC BY-NC-
SA. This work, unless otherwise
expressly stated, is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0
International License.
Research Methods in

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