Extended writing assignments can cover any imaginable topic. You may be asked to do one of the following three kinds of papers. Be sure you understand which you are being asked to do before you start your research, or you'll waste lots of time.

1. Report

"A report is usually a summary of only one or two sources that develops a topic but not a thesis" (Sorenson 1).

-This is the kind of writing assignment you were probably assigned more than once in middle school. Often this kind of assignment merely requires that you find a single source, perhaps the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, and summarize the entry you were assigned to cover.

2. Factual Research Paper

"A factual research paper is an expanded report using multiple sources but still developing only a topic, not a thesis" (1).

-Factual research papers are frequently assigned in high school. They are largely free of your opinions. You must take great care not to plagiarize when writing a factual research paper. Sometimes students choose topics for factual research papers that are much too broad. Also, there is a tendency for students to turn these papers into a simple list of facts. What could be more boring for you and your readers?

Need help choosing a factual topic? Click here!

3. Evaluative Research Paper

An evaluative research paper " . . . is developed from multiple sources [and] addresses problems-solutions, causes or effects, comparisons or contrasts, assessment, analysis, or interpretation. It supports a topic and a thesis and may reach a conclusion that expresses an opinion" (1-2).

-This is the most common kind of research paper assigned in high school and is almost exclusively the kind of research paper assigned in college. It is usually more focused than the factual research paper because it has a strong central thesis. Take care! Everything you present in an evaluative research paper must be there because it supports the thesis. If it doesn't, get rid of it!

Need help choosing an evaluative topic? Click here!

Ready to move on? Proceed to step #2: "How Do I Choose a Topic?"