Announce the subject, set the tone and gain the reader’s attention and interest. Provide some general information on the background of your topic.
Statement of the Problem
Announce the purpose of your study. Give the reader a firm sense of what you’re doing and why. List the questions that you will address. List your assumptions, those self-evident conditions that you take for granted. Describe your rationale, the underlying principles, and the logical basis for your study. Define the scope of your work and discuss any weaknesses that you can perceive in your approach. Define the key terms that you will use in your paper. Stipulate meanings for ambiguous terms.
Summary of Investigation
Identify the principal works and authors, the main ideas dealing with your topic, and any generally accepted concepts and explanations. Organize your review by themes, systematic propositions, historical sequences, or other important ideas relative to the research questions that you asked. Take note that this is a creative exercise. Do not merely cite a reference, write a few sentences about its content, and then repeat the procedure for the next reference. Organize your summary of the thinking on your topic in such a way as to clarify for your reader the commonly accepted ideas, the current points of debates, and aspects of the topic yet to be investigated adequately.
Analysis of Findings
You must do more than ask and answer questions. You must show how your questions are answered differently and try to say why. You must be able to point to books and articles that support your classification of answers. In a research paper, the solution to the problem or the answer to the question often is found in the ordered discussion itself rather than in any set of assertions about it. Once again, identify any contradictions, gaps, uncertainties and controversies that you uncovered. Sort, arrange, and define the issues that arise. If a question is clear, and if you can be reasonably certain that authors answer it in different ways, then an issue has been defined. It is the issue between the authors who answer the question in one way and those who answer it in another opposing or variant way. Classify the authors according to their views on the issues. An issue is truly joined when two authors who understand a question in the same way answer it in contrary ways. Remember, however, that differences in answers can often be ascribed as much to different conceptions of the question as to different views of the subject.
Remember than none of the opinions in conflict may be wholly true. Try to see all sides fairly. Make a deliberate effort to balance question against question, to forgo any comment that might be prejudicial, and to check any tendency toward overemphasis or under-emphasis. Avoid animosity and ad hominem arguments. Do not cite authors out of context. Accompany interpretation of authors’ views with actual quotations from their texts.
Ask yourself, What conclusions and implications can I draw from my study? Synthesize new information and personal insights in a way that is uniquely yours. Draw on your own insights, make connections, note similarities, discern what is true. Evaluate your findings with respect to your own theological and philosophical perspectives. However, avoid polemics, triviality, and weak theorizing. Make suggestions for future studies if appropriate.
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