A research paper is an extended essay that is, as the name suggests, written about a research topic. It is typically a 10-20 page document that students write in order to demonstrate their understanding of a particular topic and their ability to conduct independent research. In addition to synthesizing the arguments of others, a research paper must also include original argumentation and analysis.
A research paper can be written on any topic that is of interest to the student. However, it is important to select a topic that is both specific enough to be covered adequately in a 10-20 page paper and broad enough to allow for original research and analysis. In addition, the topic should be one on which there is a significant amount of secondary literature available.