Instructions of 5 pages long APA formate essay;
I wanted to highlight and address the most common issues. First, what is a research paper? A research paper is the collection, analysis, and presentation of previously established information for the generation of new information. This is what you will do as analysts in any field or as academics. To support a claim of fact, the evidence must be provided. Without the evidence, what a research believes to be true can only be assumed by readers to be the opinion of the author. This was one of the first common problem areas that several of you had.
Your thesis was comprised of two parts per the instructions for the assignment. The easiest component was the requirement to identify a single emerging issue from your trends to discuss. For example, if one of the three most significant trends you identified was the growth of the Artificial Intelligence market, then one emerging trend you might discuss could be the weaponization of AI by hackers. The more complex part of the requirement for your thesis is the identification of the three most significant trends within the cybersecurity industry. This has two requirements. First is to establish these as being the most significant while the second is the evidence supporting these as trends.
To support the claim of the three trends as being the most significant trends, remember that you are stating something as fact and for it to be accepted as fact, it must be supported by evidence. This evidence could be a single article. For example, Bitsight’s Brian Thomas wrote an article on 11 Jan 2021 called “2021 Cybersecurity Trends: BitSight Predicts the Top 3” available at https://www.bitsight.com/blog/2021-cybersecurity-trends-bitsight-predicts-the-top-3. You could simply state “Brian Thomas identified that the SolarWinds fallout, adapting to a hybrid work from home/in-office business model, and new cybersecurity regulations are the most significant trends in cybersecurity (Thomas, 2021).” and be done with this part of the thesis. Note the in-text citation after the statement. Your emerging issue might be how businesses are managing the need to accept a BYOD (bring your own device) approach to performing business activities in the work-from-home pandemic environment. With this done, your thesis would be fully compliant and your need to establish these as the most significant was accomplished by Mr. Thomas.
A different approach would be through a quantitative approach based on the idea that if all experts are talking about a trend, then it must be one of the most significant trends. Taking this approach, you might review 5 – 10 articles on cybersecurity trends and keep a tally of how many times each trend was discussed within the articles. If you take this approach, you must do two things. Obviously, you cannot follow the identification of the top three trends in your thesis with an in-text citation. To adjust for this, you must instead make it clear in your thesis that the paper will show or prove that the following trends are the most significant. That provides notice to your readers that you conducted your own research and that at some point, you will present your findings. This requires a written summary of your findings and then generally a table or chart presenting your findings showing the frequency at which trends were discussed. Depending on the data, there is room to tailor the results for readability. For example, you might identify 25 trends with 3 discussed 6 times, 1 discussed 4 times, 2 discussed twice, and the rest discussed a single time each. In such a scenario, you might state that trends discussed one time were excluded from the table or graph to aid in clarity and then only present the trends discussed multiple times. That would be acceptable.
Your findings would need to be presented to your readers at the beginning of the findings section. Remember, everything builds on the information that comes before it. Before you can present your trend data in the findings section, you must first identify the trends. The same concept applies to the structure of the paper. Before you can discuss a single emerging issue in your trends in the discussion section, you must present the findings (the trend data). Before you can have trend data to present, you must locate the data following a research methodology. Before you present that research methodology, you must know what you are researching. Therefore a research paper follows this order: Introduction/Thesis >> Methodology >> Findings >> Discussion >> Conclusion.
Now that your three trends have been supported as being the most significant, you must establish the fact of them being trends. A trend is a series of historical data points over a specified time frame showing a change or development in a general direction from which future projections can be made. Consider the article mentioned earlier from Mr. Thomas. It would be challenging to present trend data for either the SolarWinds fallout or the new cybersecurity regulations. Not that it cannot be done, but it would be difficult. Maybe you can identify the SolarWinds competitors and show weekly sales data with SolarWinds sales showing a continuous fall in sales while their competitors are showing a weekly climb in sales. Just remember that you need multiple historical data points to support something being a trend.
Take for example a report of a trend showing in expenditures in billions for 2015 in the amount of $96.98B and 2020 for $159.28B. Even if you state that there was a 64.24% increase between 2015 and 2020…this is not support for a trend. Two points only establish a line and a line, at best, can only imply that there may be a trend. If we fill in the blanks between these two, you may see one of the following:
Both have the same beginning and ending values, but the one on the left clearly shows the trend while the chart on the right clearly shows that there is no trend. Therefore, when you present your trend data, you must show multiple historical data points.
Aside from the issues with supporting the thesis statements and presenting the trend data, there were few other causes for receiving a grade of Does Not Meet Expectations. These included writing your paper in first person, writing a 20+ page paper, and not writing an original paper. Use of words such as “I”, “me”, “we”, “our”, etc. are not appropriate language for a formal academic paper and are usually not appropriate for professional writing. For this reason, these papers are written in 3rd person. Instead of stating “I will prove the following trends are the most significant trends…”, you would write “This paper will prove the following trends are the most significant…” Concerning length requirements, they force you to learn to write concisely. Anyone can wander aimlessly from one point to another or collect an endless list of facts to support a statement. However, as an analyst, you must be able to identify the key requirements and facts that are needed to address a problem and do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. This 5-to-7-page paper simulates that real-world scenario. The composition of your papers should have been roughly:
- Introduction: 5 – 10%
- Methodology: 5 – 10%
- Findings: 20 – 30%
- Discussion: 30 – 50%
- Conclusion: 5 – 10%
The reality for this class was the following (note the emphasis placed on the findings section. This was caused by multiple extended discussions conducted on the trend topics instead of staying focused on a presentation of the trend data):
- Introduction: 12%
- Methodology: 7%
- Findings: 57%
- Discussion: 17%
- Conclusion: 7%
The final issue involved just how much material you can use from other sources. Generally, this paper in comprised of 15 – 20% of other people’s work and most of this is for the purpose of satisfying the requirements of the findings section. It is quite common for a findings section to be 80% from other sources. That is the purpose of the findings section…what are other researchers saying? The rest of the paper should be almost entirely your own original work. Please bear in mind that I am not talking about plagiarism. While I have had issues with that in the past, there was no evidence of it for this project. I am only talking about the direct quoting and paraphrasing of material from your sources. Outside of the findings section, you should do this minimally and only when needed to support your position.
Hopefully, this information will help as you rework your papers and as you write future papers. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send me an email. Analysis and presentation of your analysis is a critical skill within any field, so anything I can do to improve your skills in this area is time well spent. Also, please keep in mind that it is extremely rare for anyone to get through this class without an assignment receiving a Does Not Meet Expectations. It is equally rare for anyone to receive a failing grade for the course.