Interpreting Your Research Findings in an Essay

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  • 0:04 The Hardest Part Comes…
  • 0:42 From Prompt to Thesis
  • 1:32 Research Phase
  • 2:41 Using Evidence to…
  • 3:56 Drawing Conclusions
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson will lead you through the process of working from a prompt to constructing a thesis, researching a question, backing up claims with evidence, and summarizing conclusions. We will focus on strategies for analyzing and interpreting claims and evidence.

The Hardest Part Comes at the End

Let's just come out and say it: research is hard. Writing is harder; but the most difficult part in writing research papers is verifying that your judgements are true. When it comes to writing research papers, the hardest part comes at the end. Often, it's easy choosing a topic, posing a question, and constructing an argument, but in the end you need to be able to prove that your thesis is true and correct. To validate your argument in a research paper, you will need to include an introduction, thesis, claim, reason, evidence, and conclusion.

From Prompt to Thesis

Say, for example, you have been assigned to write a research paper on 19th-century society and technology. Your prompt is to identify a significant 19th-century invention and investigate its significance to society. You choose to research the role the role telegraph played in the expansion and standardization of the railroads. How will you go about formulating a thesis, backing it up with claims and reasons, and locating resources?

Say you have turned your research question into the following thesis, or working hypothesis:

''The telegraph played an important role in the expansion and standardization of the railroads.''

The thesis statement is just a provisional claim. Only by pursuing the research and following through with your argument will you then be able to discover whether or not it is true.

Research Phase

Now on to the research. Not to be redundant, but research is hard. Here's a tip: when performing research, determine the legitimacy of your sources. You are a researcher, a skeptical, pragmatic problem-solver. Don't take anything for granted. However, keeping an open mind helps in developing an argument. Legitimate sources include primary sources, or contemporary accounts (in this case, 19th century); and secondary sources, which are critical analyses and histories of telegraphy and railroad development written in the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, in an historical sketch of the electric telegraph (1852), Alexander Jones documents the parallel development of telegraphy and railroad networks in a 19th-century context. This is a primary source. In ''Technology and Ideology'' (1983), historian of technology James Carey analyzes the significance of co-evolution of telegraphy and the railroad network. This is a secondary source.

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