The research essay leads you into the works of others and asks you to compare their thoughts with your own. Writing a research essay involves going to source material and synthesizing what you learn from it with your own ideas. You must find texts on the subject and use them to support the topic you have been given to explore. Because it is easy to become lost in a wilderness of outside material, you must take particular care to narrow your topic.
The frequent mistake in writing a research essay is plagiarism. If your essay consists of a string of quotations or paraphrases with little input of your own, you are not synthesizing but copying, and you should expect a low grade. If any of the borrowings are unacknowledged, you are plagiarizing, and the penalties are severe.
Remember, based on your own thoughts and the facts and ideas you have gathered from a variety of sources, a research essay is a creation uniquely yours. The experience of gathering, interpreting, and documenting information, developing and organizing ideas and conclusions, and communicating them clearly will prove to be an important and satisfying part of your education.