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aanuszek1's avatar

How do I write a research paper?

Asked by aanuszek1 (2278 points ) December 20th, 2009

I have to write a research on Johan Gutenberg, and I’m really confused. Is anyone on fluther an [ex] English teacher?

The paper needs to be written like this:
1. Intro
2. Life
3. Major Works/Inventions
4. Impact on the Renaissance
5. Conclusion

I’m not asking anyone to write my paper for me, I’m just really confused on where to start. I’ve already written an introductory paragraph, but I don’t know where to go from here. I’m more confused with the actual writing of the paper. For a paper I wrote about my political identity, I did a “set up, quote, analysis” for each fact that supported my thesis that I should belong to the Republican Party, but I don’t think that system applies to a “biography” paper. I understand parenthetical citations, so I suppose that’s a start.

Any help would be deeply appreciated.

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8 Answers

MrGV's avatar

Why not ask the teacher, since he/she are the one who is grading it.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

After the intro, part 2 is a summary of his life: When/where born, education, apprenticeship, family background, etc. Part 3 is exactly what is says Gutenberg press, partnership with Dritzehn, what else did he invent? Part 4 is the answer to “Gutenberg is important because____. In his own time, his inventions resulted in _____.” Part 5 is the the longterm impact.

I would suggest outlining before you start writing. Make sure you have both online and book references, and footnote correctly.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m not an English teacher, and I haven’t had to do an academic research paper in over 35 years. So take the following for what it’s worth.

1. Intro
You need to state what it is that you intend to show in your paper: “Gutenberg enabled modern civilization by inventing a printing press that led to widespread literacy and an explosion in education” or “Gutenberg single-handedly ruined civilization by destroying monarchies and priesthoods across Europe when his invention enabled the hoi polloi to gain access to educations that would have been previously denied to them”. No, probably neither of those; you make up your own. This is your thesis statement; it’s what you intend to demonstrate / prove with what follows.

2. Life
The facts of his life: birth, parentage, family and education. A recounting of the events and circumstances that shaped his life. This has to be pure fact, backed up by your scrupulously documented research.

3. Major Works / Inventions
This is still primarily factual (has to be fact-based, anyway), but ‘major’ is up to you to define here, and illustrate with examples and documentation. This is where you start to make your case to prove the Intro.

4. Impact on the Renaissance
This is where you have to hypothesize and demonstrate how “what he did” affected “what followed”. For example, how many books and manuscripts were available in Europe at the start of his life? At the end of his life? Twenty and fifty years later? What was education like, before and after? Can you obtain data on numbers of colleges and other institutions of higher learning? Their independence from the Church? (The Church should figure prominently in this analysis, I would think—but it’s your paper!—since they controlled nearly all higher learning prior to the printing press. How can you demonstrate whether the independence of the printing press was good or bad in that regard? What are the data that support your position?

5. Conclusion
How well did you make your case? What you have to do here is cogently summarize what has gone before, comparing the various claims you made in the Intro to the ways in which you have proved that. Your conclusion might also raise questions and suggest areas of possible future research.

Everything you state in sections 2 – 4 has to be backed up by fact, so that whatever you say in 5 can be backed up by… your preceding work in the paper.

aanuszek1's avatar

@CyanoticWasp:
Thank You! But I’m still really confused. For example, let’s say I took the following note:

• “Johann Gensfleisch Zur Laden Zum Gutenberg, a German craftsman and inventor who originated a method of printing from moveable type was born circa 1398 in Mainz, Germany.”

Now I’m going to begin my first paragraph. How do I use that information in my paper? Could I start with:

“Johannes Gutenberg was born circa 1398 in Mainz, Germany (citation).”?

Would this mean I would have to put a citation after every sentence?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

This is where you need to talk to your teacher / professor. S/He’ll have to guide you as to how much of your paper needs to be footnoted and backed up with citations.

For example, if in your text you mention whoever was Pope at the time, would you need to cite a reference, since that is commonly available historical information that could be verified by anyone with a dictionary or a rudimentary encyclopedia? Or would you be able to make the statement (assuming there’s no uncertainty, of course!) and proceed from there?

If Gutenberg’s (uncertain) birthdate is commonly agreed upon and easy to find, then would it suffice to state that: “Most scholars and historians agree that Johannes Gutenberg was born around 1398. What is well known about his birth is… ” etc. If you’re going to present something new, unusual, in some way opposed to “common or conventional knowledge”—say, if you think you know his exact birthdate—then that clearly has to be cited.

If you err on the side of “over-referencing” in the draft, then it’s easy to take them out later in the editing process. If you under-reference, then you need to cross reference to your notes all through the editing process, which would be tiresome and slow.

ETpro's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Well said. This was in my Questions bin, but you leave me nothing to add. :-)

MrBr00ks's avatar

The one thing that you do not want to do is make your paper mostly quotations from your sources. Good lord, my teachers say that more than anything else during the times papers are being written (not just to me, the whole class). They also tell the classes that if you are using source material that is used in class, assume that the teacher knows the story/material inside and out, and do not summarize said material within the paper’s pages. Bring your own unique perspective and ideas to the paper. And give yourself lots of time if you do not know how to write it (which sounds like the case here).

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