Research Project Part One: Contexts
Two major assignments comprise the research project: Part One: Contexts (CP) and Part Two:
Advocacy (AP). This first assignment, the CP, asks you to (1) research and deploy various types of
sources to describe, contextualize, and analyze a significant contemporary
political/social/cultural problem; (2) summarize and evaluate conversations and debates
happening between credible scholars, thinkers, and organizations about your topic.
Together, the actions above comprise expository writing—the guiding method of this project—which
means simply that with this first composition you are attempting to describe your project's central
problem and explain its relevance by contextualizing it.
An informed, authoritative writer understands their topic in context. Context can be historical.
Analyzing the past means grappling not simply with events,
but with the issues and concerns of the time. It’s not enough
to read a contemporary account of the past; we must also look
at the work produced in the past—its political speeches, court
decisions, and media. Therefore, one goal of this assignment
is to learn about the historical contexts of your problem: the
laws, legal precedents, and institutional practices that underlie
its current form, and economic, social, political, and/or
environmental trends that have shaped its development.
Context can also be rhetorical. We want to present the stakes
that a given community has in the topic of our research, but
we also want to interrogate the way those stakes get
articulated by journalists, researchers, and politicians. Even
within “scholarly writing,” you should become aware of how
various communities (called disciplines) frame the same topic
quite differently from one another. Identifying these relevant
communities of thinkers and writers, analyzing their
perspectives, and bringing their views together will help you
gain a comprehensive understanding of your problem, and the
authority that understanding entails.
As you research for your CP, you will concurrently develop a
Working Annotated Bibliography for your entire project
that involves summarizing and analyzing individual sources (your instructor will provide you
with separate instructions for this portion of the assignment).
By the time you complete the CP, you should be able to:
● Develop effective research note-taking habits through source annotations.
● Practice information literacy in the research process by locating and critically evaluating
relevant and credible evidence from a variety of sources and genres.
● Understand research as a part of the larger composition process of prewriting, drafting, and
● Collaborate with fellow researchers to give and receive constructive feedback on the work in
● Plan, draft and revise an essay with organization and style appropriate for addressing a
general academic audience.
● Arrange and integrate evidence—primary-source, secondary-source, and
multimodal—intentionally, with particular attention to its argumentative purpose and
● Integrate and cite evidence in a transparent and ethical manner, using a standard citation
system. Learn how and why to avoid plagiarism and patch-writing.
Process work is required to be eligible to submit a final draft for a grade. This may include but
is not limited to topic development exercises, a proposal or prospectus, and multiple essay drafts.
Late or incomplete process work may result in a grade penalty on the final draft.
The contextualizing in the CP must be supported by a broad and varied selection of research,
including primary and secondary sources, scholarship, journalism, policy papers, reports, case
law, and other sources as appropriate for your topic. While both you and your instructor will
work to determine an appropriate scope and variety of research for your essay, at a minimum it
should draw evidence from 6-8 sources, including TWO scholars in conversation. Keep in
mind that the total number of sources for the entire project’s bibliography is 15-20 sources.
Your final submission for Part One should be a 1500-2000 word multimodal composition. It
should be formatted in MLA style, with parenthetical citations, a Works Cited page, and a
descriptive academic title.
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