The Research Essay: A Final Analogy

Like all comparisons, this one isn't perfect, but imagine that a research paper is like a dinner party. You are the writer: the host. And you have invited some guests: your sources. If the dinner party is to be effective, the guests should ideally have something in common. In other words, all your sources should "fit" into the essay you are writing.

Beyond that, your job as writer/host is to enable conversation among your sources/guests. And sources are not always that talkative, so it will be up to you to propose some topics of conversation. In other words, you will be responsible for laying out ideas first and then asking for input from your guests. Notice the assignment of roles here: you are in charge. You introduce the topics, and only then can your guests have a say.

And it will be up to you to transition from one speaker to the next. Otherwise, all your guests will be talking at once or one will follow right after the other with no transition. (The essay equivalent is a body paragraph that is made of one quotation after another, with no word from the essay author.)

And remember, try not to let just a few of your guests dominate the conversation. They each want a chance to share something. So if you've invited ten people, let them each have a turn. Don't let one take over the party, which means don't rely too heavily on just one source among the many that you might have found.