Long Final Research Paper
This may be the time when you are most tempted to take a few shortcuts. Please allow
me to FIRMLY advise you against it. I enjoy allowing my students to choose their own
topics for this long paper, but that is also very risky for me because that may provide the
temptation for someone to cheat.
Chapter Six discusses plagiarism and ways to avoid it. You might want to take this time
to review those penalties, as they are severe and I DO take plagiarism quite seriously.
Remember that plagiarism can be unintentional, but the penalty is still the same – be
careful. I will check and double-check your internet sources, and where possible, I will
check your other sources as well as I grade your paper. If I suspect you of intentionally
plagiarizing from any source, I will find it. I also use two plagiarism detection sources,
SafeAssign and Turnitin.com. So to avoid any unpleasantries, decide here and now that
you are going to bite the bullet and write your own paper.
There are some important distinctions to be made before we proceed any further with this
assignment. First, a research paper is not the report you did in middle school on the
West Indies. There you may have consulted a few encyclopedias, a book or two, or
maybe an internet source if you have recently graduated, but generally, you did not do
too much more than cut and paste the information you found, and you most likely did not
have to credit your sources (more on that later). Your main objective was probably
breadth, not depth.
So, unlike your earliest endeavors into research, this paper must NOT simply report.
You must have a thesis and it must be very narrow (defined). You are investigating
in-depth (8-12 pages, not including the Works Cited page), not taking a book-length
topic and skimming the surface.
This paper MUST TAKE AN ANGLE. You must argue a point or aspect of your subject.
This should not be a paper about abortion or the death penalty; rather, this should be a
paper on a topic that greatly interests you. A couple examples from last year included the
closing of Air Force bases, increasing prison term sentences for violent crimes, changing
the speed limit, abolishing property taxes, and decreasing the number of visas allowed for
foreigners to come into our country. These were all well-written papers, because the
authors were invested in the subject matter and created very strong arguments/examples
to support their thesis.
You must make use of a variety of sources, not just those you can easily download. That
is not to say that you cannot rely exclusively on Internet sources, only that you have to
make sure they are powerful sources. There are a number of problems with Internet
sources that you should be aware of, with the most troublesome being credibility.
Anyone can post a website on the WWW, and more and more people actually do a fairly
professional-looking job of it. Remember too, that not much on the internet is older than
about 15 years. While up-to-date material is great for some topics, there is a wealth of
scholarly information that was written before 1990!
Now is the time to go to VU's home page. From there go to the Shake library home page.
NOTE: You may use sources from anywhere; you do not have to limit yourself to the
Vincennes Library. Be sure to look for material under the databases that can be accessed
there and that you learned about when you did your research for Essays 1, 2 and 3,
(search the “Find Books and Articles” heading at the top of the page). If you scroll
through these databases with a general topic in mind, you should not have too much
trouble coming up with something.
Once you have done this, decide on a topic, hopefully something about which you are
POSSIBLE TOPIC CHOICES
The following topics are very broad and must be narrowed. They are the kind of topics
you might want to choose – notice that there are no options for expository topics. Your
topic must allow you take an angle, to prove or expose an aspect of it with which others
might not agree. You do not have to choose one of the following topics; they are just
examples of the kind of topic you can choose.
Computer privacy and identity theft
Athletic abuses or mismanagement
Problems in educational system
Problems with or for the Disabled
Architecture and design
News or entertainment media
Reassessment of historical figure or event- to reassess means to look at again in a new
light or in a wholly different way.
Research papers are investigative in nature. They usually have one of three purposes: to
explain, to analyze, or to persuade. In this research paper, you will do all 3, but not
necessarily all in the same amount. How much of each is your choice. In choosing a
topic, try to avoid those topics that you “always wanted to know more about.” That may
sound odd, but often students who choose those types of topics can only inform readers
on the most general of levels. Choose a topic you know about already, or have an interest
in, but wish to investigate further. After that, you can formalize one of those into the
following proposal, which you can send to me if you are worried about its quality. Of
course at this point in the course, you are probably pretty comfortable with your writing
skills, so you do not have to send me anything.
A proposal should include the following information:
Possible narrowed ideas for the topic
Rationale for Research (why does this need more investigation?)
What resources have I already researched, proving that there is enough research out there
to make my job here easy:
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