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An unseen person holds a protest sign that reads “Iraq,” “2,000,000 dead,” and “4,000,000 fled genocide.”
Figure 12.1 In 2008, a protestor in London’s Parliament Square uses researched evidence to support their claim against the Iraq War (2003–2011). On the sign, the protestor cites several statistics. Numerical data, such as statistics, is evidence that helps persuade an audience. (credit: “Iraq War Protesters in Parliament Square” by ljanderson977/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

The term research is used widely and regularly and may have different—sometimes contradictory—meanings. Therefore, it is important to clarify what research is, why it is a key tool for academic success, and how using research-based evidence can enhance a writer’s rhetorical abilities and effectiveness.

No matter what academic subjects you study, at some point you will need to conduct research. Although research is an integral part of all disciplines, even those primarily related to art or performance, the product of the research will vary. Even if your coursework does not require formal, documented research, it will, at minimum, include regular research behaviors. Every day, whether deciding which movie to watch or choosing a new technology product, everyone participates in basic, informal research behaviors: a process of seeking information, testing it against other forms of collected information, and analyzing as much “data” as possible before making decisions or being persuaded. Although more formal, the same process applies to academic writing. You may be required to conduct research, gather evidence (data), and present your ideas and findings in a range of genres.

Like all communication, conducting and citing research is rhetorically situated and thus has a purpose, the reason or goal for the research; an audience, the recipient of the research findings; a genre, the structure of reported research; a stance, the position, or viewpoint, supported by research; a context, the situation in which the research or subject occurs; and a culture, the groups of people who share common beliefs and lived experiences, reflected by the author, audience, and subject. Furthermore, the researcher uses effective rhetorical strategies, such as reasoning supported by evidence. Therefore, it is important to match your research to the elements of the rhetorical situation, as indicated. For example, for a political science course, you may find that current unrest on campus regarding politics or race functions as a context for conducting formal research (through surveys or interviews) on students’ responses to that unrest. Your purpose might be to provide evidence that supports your stance in proposing a change of campus policies. Your audience may include university administrators and student representatives. Your genre may be a persuasive speech, an article in the student newspaper, a poster, or a public service video. Cultural elements include the unrest and its relation to the university environment for both students and faculty. The supporting evidence is the resulting data and analysis from the surveys or interviews. But before you consider how to use evidence in reporting research, it is important to understand the research process itself.

With a focus on the role of evidence collection in research, this chapter presents methods for introducing research as evidence, examines the genre and writing processes associated with argumentative research papers, and addresses the use of unbiased language in creating and reporting effective research.

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