Editor's note: In the following article, high school teacher Cindy Heckenlaible voices her frustration with the traditional research paper, suggesting that she is not alone in this aggravation. Indeed the possibilities of plagiarism, the likely gutting of student voice, and the general discontent students feel when embarking on a project for seemingly no other reason than the instructor's insistence that "later, you'll need to know how to do this" leave many teachers searching for alternative ways to teach the important skills the research paper requires.
In the analytical research paper (also known as exploratory or informational) you should learn about the topic and inform your reader about what you have learned. If there are different opinions, you should report all of them; if there is a controversy, you should explain what both sides believe. Although analytical papers are governed by athesis—a sentence that establishes the controlling idea or main point of your paper—they do not take sides on an issue.
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