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  • Writer's pictureThe Palo Alto Scholar

What Is A Research-Based Essay?

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

Starting to write like you're in college, like a scholar


Sometimes people ask us, what exactly is a "research-based essay"? If you're in an AP or IB writing class, you might have a good idea. If you're in the usual history or English classes, you might not. It's kind of like these houses, different sizes and colors, but with some basic structure to hold them up. Many of us start out with book reports and research papers where we basically summarize the information and present it in a cohesive manner. We move on to expository essays, where we come up with a topic sentence, say some stuff about Macbeth, put our quotes in, do some analysis, and get to our conclusion. Some of us might write opinion pieces or media reviews for the school newspaper. These expository essays and reviews or opinion pieces would fall into our "critical essay" category. You're analyzing one thing pretty much here, so submit these under our "critical essay" category, .


A research-based essay is like the typical research paper and draws on multiple sources, but its goal is not just to inform, it is to have a conversation and persuade. Not that there's one right way to think about it, but there are some interesting new ways to consider the issue that you'd like to put forward. It's a curated conversation between your various texts and sources. So if done right, it's like a pebble you've thrown into the vast lake of knowledge that skips across lightly and creates a ripple effect. It's not a rock that you crash into the water, dogmatically, that sinks and goes nowhere. So if you've written a research paper where you are trying to elucidate something with multiple sources, submit under our "research-based essay" category.

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