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Different Types of Research Papers

Author: I. Lee
Published on: May 16, 2023
Updated on: Jul 26, 2023
Table of content
  • According to the purpose
  • According to the depth of scope
  • According to the data type
  • According to variables manipulation
  • According to the type of inference
  • According to the time in which it is carried out
  • According to the sources of information
  • According to how the data is obtained
  • According to design
  • Other research paper types

Types of Research Papers
When asked to compose a research paper based on a particular subject, you may deal with one of its types. While there are basic guidelines you must follow regarding structure and formatting, there are certain peculiarities to keep in mind! You must find out what type of research paper must be addressed. The tricky part is your preparation for every kind of work. Therefore, we developed this guide to help you learn about the different types of research papers to make your investigation more focused and to the point.

Types of research papers

As a way to make your journey through the research-type paper options a bit easier, let’s divide them by types of work.

According to the purpose:

  • Theoretical. Theoretical research type is one of the most popular types of research paper as it has a clear focus. If you have to work with this type, your main objective is to generate all currently available. Even if it has no practical appliance (like in Engineering or design), you must use it anyway. You must collect data and make sure that your target audience understands what your research is about and what theory it follows. Most of such research papers will relate to theories and basic analytical work.
  • Applied. This research type stands for something that can be approached scientifically based on practice. The aim here is to generate practical skills. It’s essential in Engineering, Healthcare, and Biology. For such types of papers, one can alternate between technological or scientific types of research, depending on your aims. A technological approach will be fitting if you wish to improve some processes. Now, the scientific research type would include prediction as you work with variables and design things.

According to the depth of scope:

  • Exploratory. It is most suitable for research type papers where you have to explore a not-well-known subject. Start with making a hypothesis and developing research. It can be an investigation talking about the role of video games in the development of teenagers.
  • Descriptive. This type of research is where you must describe certain characteristics or discuss specifics of some belief or an event. You may not have to research why something has caused these characteristic traits. You must describe and talk about how some things may change IF this or that takes place.
  • Explanatory. It’s one of the popular research methods since one has to analyze specific methodologies and help the target audience trace the cause-and-effect relations. It is close to descriptive writing by nature. Still, you must create a research environment since your findings may have to be re-created by others.
  • Correlational. This is where you identify the link between two or more variables. You must focus on determining whether certain research variables will be affected and see whether something is systematic regarding these changes (correlational research methodology).

According to the data type:

  • Qualitative. It’s used to collect, evaluate, and explain information based on obtained information. It means you have to approach a linguistic-semiotic method to things as you research. You can turn to analysis, interviews, questionnaires, and personal surveys. This is where statistical data helps! You must ask yourself “why” instead of “how.”
  • Quantitative. Such types of papers to write belong to one of the most challenging cases because quantitative stands for mathematical (think MATLAB) and computer-based software to check things. It also makes it possible to create a prognosis, which is why this type of research is usually met in engineering.
  • Mixed. It’s also possible to use both methodologies if you can support your research type assignment with source information and personal examples. If you are dealing with Psychology or Experimental study, use surveys and aid yourself with AI-based evaluation tools.

According to variables manipulation:

  • Experimental. Contrary to its title, you do not have to experiment per se. It’s about the design or replication of things you research. It means you have to re-create specific research conditions to discover what effects are caused by given variables. It’s where you primarily use case studies and sample groups.
  • Non-experimental. They often call this research type an observational study. It means that you have to provide analysis in its natural environment. You do not have to intervene in the process but consider turning to descriptive writing. This research may include observation of animals in their natural habitat or the use of the noise effect in the urban environment.
  • Quasi-experimental. These types of academic papers are not purely experimental, as you only work with two or three variables. Another aspect of this research is based on randomly chosen variables. It helps to decrease the bias in your study. It also helps to focus on relevant data and allows us to narrow things down.

According to the type of inference:

  • Deductive. It means the research is basically fixed since one has to focus on laws and things that can or cannot be. It helps to come to certain conclusions. As you look at the research problem, you use deduction to create your considerations. If you make assumptions and develop reliable evidence, this work method suits you.
  • Inductive. It’s one of the flexible methods to think about. The reason why it’s flexible is the way inductive research is generated. You conclude by observing and generalizing while different kinds of research occur. You have to collect data over a period, which makes the process less fixed.
  • Hypothetical-deductive approach. You have to make a hypothesis for your research work and use deduction methods to come up with a conclusion. The major difference is that a researcher also takes time to evaluate whether things are correct.

According to the time in which it is carried out:

  • Longitudinal. You might know this type of work as diachronic research. Despite the complex name, it focuses on the same issue or an event where a fixed period is taken. It has to track certain changes based on variables. It’s one of the most popular research papers in Healthcare, Nursing, Sociology, Psychology, and Education.
  • Cross-sectional. Also known as synchronous research, it is the type of work that approaches cross-sectional design. Here, you have to look at some event or a process at a certain point by taking notes. Thus, research can be used both for sample groups or when working with a case study.

According to the sources of information:

  • Primary. Most students are asked to use primary sources. It is exactly why we have a primary research paper method. The data must be collected directly (personal interviews, surveys, questionnaires, a field observation study, etc.) and represent first-hand information. It is perfect for papers in Psychology, Journalism, Healthcare, and subjects where accuracy is vital.
  • Secondary. This research type of work is mainly developed with sources that represent secondary references. These include books in print or found online, scientific journals, peer-reviewed documents, etc. If another expert or a student reviews a study, it is related to secondary research; so will your project.

According to how the data is obtained:

  • Documentary. As the name suggests, documentary research is based on the secondary references you used. It is a systematic review where you turn to secondary sources related to your subject of study. The most prominent types of research projects in this area are writing a literature review or working with a case study. It is one of the most accessible and clear types of research work.
  • Field. It is quite popular research these days as students tend to collect information in the field or at the location where something takes place. Think about researching Fashion Studies where you attend the shows or exploring Environmental Science, where you must observe a phenomenon and take notes.
  • Laboratory. The major difference in laboratory research type is working in a strictly-controlled environment where study notes are taken immediately. You must isolate unnecessary variables and use one or two scientific methods. Therefore, such type of research writing is called laboratory research. If your college professor asks for this assignment, consider keeping up with standards and rules.
  • Survey. This is where you have to work with the primary information or the use of first-hand data you obtain yourself. It is especially helpful when you work with a group to obtain variables. With this research type, you can also come up with certain conclusions to support your hypothesis and thesis statement.

According to design:

  • Fixed. When conducting a fixed research type, narrow things down and focus on temporal aspects. It means you have to discuss how often you will evaluate something, where your research will occur, a sample group, and other fixed variables. Working on fixed types of research reports, creating precise conditions, and follow strict protocols. Such research is related chiefly to lab reports or laboratory works mostly used in Healthcare and/or Law.
  • Flexible. Now, the flexible research type will provide you with a process where certain things will change as you take step after step in your research. The examples may include case studies where you have to observe the changes that may take over time. Another example would relate to Anthropology or Geography, where you have to observe a group of people or deal with a cross-cultural analysis. It can also relate to grounded-theory studies, where you should develop theoretical knowledge based on analysis and your thinking.

Other research paper types:

  • Argumentative. Also known as a persuasive research type paper, you have to persuade your target audience on your side and a point of view. You have to use at least one piece of evidence (references) to prove your point and support your argument. You must talk about different research opinions and show why your side is correct.
  • Analytical. Analytical research papers should always pose a problem and collect relevant information. You can look at another researcher’s works and provide an analysis based on various points of view. The main types of research papers include analysis and must keep the tone analytical and remain neutral without showing your thoughts unless only to guide the reader.
  • Definition. This research type requires describing the facts or arguments without using anything based on your opinion or an emotional constituent. You only have to offer information by including facts, yet let your data remain without analysis or bias.
  • Action-based. This research type assignment must conduct your work based on a process or a certain action causing things. It can also lead to social processes where a person’s actions have led to something. It can be some research about social movements and/or manufacturing processes.
  • Causal. It may relate to cause-and-effect papers where you must focus on the causes. This research type has to address the questions and explore the causes. It can be based on case studies related to business, education, environmental, educational issues, and more.
  • Classification. If you have to classify, compare, and contrast things, this method will be helpful. Start with the standards and the rules by setting your classification type immediately. Once you know it, your research paper will go smoothly.
  • Comparative. As a rule, this research will deal with comparative work where you take a methodology and compare two sample groups, two individuals, different beliefs, or situations. If you have to compare, discuss your objectives and then create two columns to determine differences and similarities.

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What research paper type is most suitable for me?

It will always depend on the research paper objectives you wish to achieve. If you need clarification on the research type you must approach, consult your academic advisor or look closely at your grading rubric. If it says that you must develop an analytical study, it will require posing a specific research question or a problem. The next step would be to collect information on a topic and provide an analysis based on various points of view.

Likewise, if your grading rubric has the word “definition” mentioned, your research type paper must focus on the facts or argumentation. In this case, you should not provide your opinion or talk about what some author thinks. Only the definition of an object or belief is necessary.

As you can see, you only have to find out what your research must achieve. Set the purpose and look at the different types of research and possible methods to approach your problem. Once you know it, look at the research type papers and choose the most fitting option!

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