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Your paper assignment

Students often have to write research papers as part of a university education. The information below is to illustrate how to integrate and present the ideas of others into your research paper. Ideas come from knowledge.

What is knowledge?

Knowledge is variously defined. For our purposes, knowledge is defined as the sum of what is known about a particular topic. The sum of what is known about a particular topic is built over time and constantly evolving. As an example, let's take a look at how our knowledge of the solar system was built and evolved over time. 

You can see that what we know about the solar system has changed over the centuries. For a very long time people thought the sun circled the earth. When the ancient Greek Aristarchus proposed that the earth circled the sun. No one believed him. Twelve hundred years later, Copernicus proved that Aristarchus was right. Scientists such as Galileo and Newton built on Copernicus' findings to further expand our knowledge of the solar system. As better instruments were invented scientists continued to build on the discoveries of their predecessors. On February 18, 2021, the NASA rover Perseverance touched down on Mars. The data collected by Perseverance will be sent back to earth. Using the new data scientists will write articles and books that will expand, confirm, or refute what we currently know and believe generating new insights and new knowledge.

Integrating ideas into your paper

Now let's take the above information and present it as an argument in a paper. The green and yellow text above highlights separate ideas that can be integrated into your paper. 

Let's say you are writing a research paper that discusses the resistance that scientists such as Copernicus, Galilelo, and Newton faced from church authorities when they proposed that the earth moves and orbits the sun.

Visually, the structure of your paper may look something like this.  


An actual paper incorporating these ideas may look something like the example below. The yellow and green text helps to differentiate between different ideas but also allows us to see how these ideas refute and support what we know about a particular topic. 


What is common knowledge?

Common knowledge is the information that the average, educated person would accept as reliable without having to look it up. There are two main categories of common knowledge:

  1. Information that most people know.  
    • For example: The freezing point of water is 0C.
  2. Information that most people within a particular culture, national group, or discipline would know. 
    • For example: Most astronomers and students of astronomy will know that Newton invented the reflecting telescope, but others outside the field may not.

To determine if something is common knowledge ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Will I be asked where I obtained my information?
  • Is this information readily available in at least three different sources?




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