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High School Research Guide: Starting your Essay

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Beginning Research!

It is a good idea to begin your research with some quick and organized background information from sources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries. Background information provides an overview and a context. It provides definitions of terminology, important names, places, and dates, and a brief bibliography of important works that you could use as a springboard for your research.

This brief tutorial explains how to begin your research:

Essay Types


  • Research: A research paper is an expanded essay that presents your own interpretation or evaluation or argument. When you write an essay, you use everything that you personally know and have thought about a subject. When you write a research paper you build upon what you know about the subject and make a deliberate attempt to find out what experts know. A research paper involves surveying a field of knowledge in order to find the best possible information in that field. And that survey can be orderly and focused, if you know how to approach it. Don't worry--you won't get lost in a sea of sources. 
  • Definition: A definition essay defines a word, term, or concept in  depth by providing a personal commentary on what the specific subject means.


  • Evaluation: An evaluation essay is a sort of argumentative essay where you will research a particular topic, whether it be a book or whatever, and give your best educated and argumentative opinion about it. You will have to summarize the topic, and prevent a good argument to prove your summary.


  • Rhetorical Analysis:  A rhetorical analysis is an essay that breaks a work of non-fiction into parts and then explains how the parts work together to create a certain effect—whether to persuade, entertain or inform. 


  • Persuasive: In persuasive or argumentative writing, we try to convince others to agree with our facts, share our values, accept our argument and conclusions, and adopt our way of thinking.


  • Narrative: A narrative essay is a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.


  • Compare and Contrast: Compare and Contrast essays are characterized by a basis for comparison, points of comparison, and analogies. It is grouped by object (chunking) or by point (sequential). Comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects.

Technology options for projects and presentations

When you hear presentation most students automatically think powerpoint. STOP! There are hundreds of different types of presentations, and your teacher will be relieved if you do not choose the old-fashioned and over done powerpoint! Break away from old habits and don't be afraid to click on one of the links! All are easy to use, and depending on your topic and presentation idea, one of them will stand out being the most useful. Wouldn't you rather have a moving presentation, or a cool design for your project, rather than a slideshow?