It depends on what the parameters of the assignment are. i imagine a research paper at your college might have no opinion component, so avoid your feelings or personal opinions. A well supported objective analysis is far more convincing than a personalized opinion piece. If it is SUPPOSED to be a persuasive assertion backed by research, then your opinion counts if you can support it (eg surfing is eco friendly or surfing is killing the planet). That means you're looking for specific research that supports your point and you will be selective and try to avoid contradicting yourself. Easy research topics are biographies (duke, tom curren, kelly slater, hobie, etc) or histories (surfing itself, board evolution, surf film evolution etc) or documentaries on iconic surf locales (mavericks, pipeline, that river in germany etc).
Keep in mind the tone and audience. Take for granted that the reader is not going to be familiar with particular terminology, and therefore you will have to define terms as you go along. Also keep in mind they do not need the details and extraneous information associated with surfing. This is a concise research project in which you're getting to the point in explaining what your specific topic is rather than giving an overview of the entire oeuvre of surfing.
Finally, when it comes to the research itself, you will likely paraphrase the vast majority of what you're finding and use citation of paraphrase when it comes to specific statistical information as well as direct quotation that you find useful and supportive. Any claim that one of your authors makes as to the validity, quality or truthfulness of anything else (e.g. “Kelly Slater is the best surfer ever in the world”) should be cited because it is some opinion rather than proven fact. Well known established facts do not necessarily need to be cited (e.g. surfing is Polynesian in origin or Kelly Slater is 10 times champion).
For general formatting rules, you can check out my website www.englit.org or the owl site at Purdue University, which has excellent resources on quotation and citation.
If you have any specific questions or concerns, always run it by the person is grading your paper, as they will be the final arbiters as to what passes muster and what doesn't.
Last edited by spongedude; Sep 28, 2011 at 06:43 AM.