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Arguments by Type

Under each of our four fields of study, there are three genres that appear to be the most common: research papers, literature reviews, and articles for the popular press. Below is a general description of each genre, including its purpose, target audience, writing style, and structure of argument.

For information about these three types of papers in specific academic fields, please see the tabs under Arguments by Type in the main menu above (e.g., Research Papers in Math and Sciences).


Research Paper

Purpose: Explain the process and results of an innovative study.

Target Audience: Other researchers within the same/similar field, generally those who are studying the same topic. Very specific in scope; sometimes, only a handful of people in the world may understand the research.

Writing Style: Generally written in the past tense, passive voice, except for the results paragraph. Includes citation to other research papers to establish credibility. Few, if any, rhetorical devices used. Includes considerable use of technical terminology and jargon.

Structure: Generally follows the scientific method format of intro, methods, results, conclusions, although not all sections may be included. Usually incorporates graphs, tables or other diagrams to explain research.

Literature Review

Purpose: Summarize the results of several research papers in a particular field or subfield. The purpose of writing in scientific journals is to get closer to the truth and not get too attached to theories and emotions that may cloud judgment.

Target Audience: Individuals who are in the field, are interested in entering the field, or otherwise have some level of technical knowledge. Usually targets a wider audience than research papers, but still geared towards professionals.

Writing Style: Similar in style to that of the research paper. Generally more “dense,” since each sentence can be a summary of an entire paper.

Structure: Starts with abstract; ideas and topics usually separated by headings in a logical manner. More “colorful” diagrams or images may be used to explain ideas.

Popular Press Article

Purpose: Inform the public about the implications of new discoveries or ideas.

Target Audience: The general population, who may be interested in a particular field, but possesses little technical knowledge. Widest target audience of the three.

Writing Style: Usually written in the active voice. Contains little technical language; if jargon is used, it is generally explained. May include metaphors or analogies in order to make ideas easier to understand.

Structure: Variable structure; usually begins with a catchy introduction/something that the audience can relate to. May include images that serve the purpose of entertaining the audience.