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Introduction: As a university student you have likely written research papers for some of your classes. A research paper is a specific type of academic document for which there are conventions, standards, and expectations. professional writing services near me

In the past, most university courses and programs were in purely academic disciplines (e.g. English, Chemistry, History). Increasingly, however, universities also offer courses and degree programs in practitioner disciplines. A practitioner discipline is one in which the subject matter being studied is knowledge of, and the ability to work in, a specific profession. Practitioner disciplines cover a wide range of professions, from engineering and environmental science to homeland security, law enforcement, and the management of fire and rescue services.

Research papers are of importance in practitioner disciplines because they often provide a bridge between the purely academic research and the application of that research in actual practice. This poses certain challenges to you as the writer of such a paper; you have to interpret the results of academic research and determine whether and to what extent those results tell something about the profession.

Courses in practitioner disciplines are designed and taught exactly like courses that are more academic in nature: there are required readings, assignments, exercises, and so on. This means that research papers are very often required, particularly in more advanced (300- and 400-level) courses. There are, however, some special considerations that a student must keep in mind when writing a research paper for such a course.

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Writers are always encouraged to consider the audience for a written document. In the case of a purely academic research paper, the audience is likely to be a professor (or a group of professors) specializing in the academic discipline. This means the writer can be confident that the audience will be familiar with the main principles and bodies of literature and research within the discipline; this audience will also have a deep understanding of research methodologies and techniques.

In a practitioner discipline, however, the concept of audience may need to be broadened. You may be asked, for example, to consider the possibility of a more general audience for the research paper. For example, your potential audience may include people who are professionals in the field but who do not necessarily have advanced academic degrees or training. This means they may know a great deal about the profession but not about the academic basis for some aspects of the profession.

Think of engineering, for example. A person who received a bachelor’s degree in engineering and who is now working as an engineer probably understands the principles of engineering quite well. However, he or she may not be aware of the research being conducted by professors of engineering at various colleges and universities or in large private sector organizations, nor of how the knowledge created by that research is transferred out to the professional at large.

For this reason, audience analysis is an especially important first step in the process of writing a practitioner discipline research paper.


In your academic writing you have undoubtedly used sources such as books and articles in academic journals. In writing for a practitioner discipline, you will continue to use such sources. You will also, though, sometimes use sources that are more professional than purely academic in nature. For example, in the field of emergency management a writer may consult an academic journal such as The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, as well as a more professional source such as the website of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).

It is important to remember that there are differences between these types of sources. An academic journal typically reports on research that has been conducted according to strict standards of oversight. Further, the material published in an academic journal has been peer-reviewed; that is, before publication it has been reviewed by other researchers and specialists to ensure the research methodology is sound and the results are reasonably accurate.

By contrast, material published for professional purposes may be more descriptive in nature; that it, it may relate real-world experiences in the field rather than purely academic research into a problem. Also, professional material is unlikely to have gone through the peer-review process. This does not mean that the information is necessarily unreliable; it does mean, though, that you must be careful when drawing conclusions from specific information to broader, more general situations (see Guidelines for Analytical Reading in the Course Content area).


raLet’s consider an example. Suppose you are writing a paper for an environmental management class, and your instructor would like you to tackle the issue of the agricultural and horticultural uses of biosolids such as sewage sludge. It’s tempting, at this point, to title your paper “The Agricultural and Horticultural Uses of Biosolids.” If you do that, though, you’re going to run into trouble during your research; there is so much information available that you’ll likely be overwhelmed. Besides, even if you managed to get through all that information your paper would still be largely descriptive (you’ll just be describing the uses of biosolids in those situations) rather than analytical in nature.

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