RESEARCH ESSAY OVERVIEW
The research paper involves researching a topic that you develop out of your
understanding of the thematically organized readings in the text. The themes
include government, the individual, ethics and morality, nature, the mind, etc.
Your topic and thesis should relate to one or more of the articles in one of these
categories and be current and relevant but also original. You must defend your
position by supporting it with research. There are many steps to the process,
and writing the paper is the last step. We will discuss the following:
What is meant by “research paper”?
Choosing a topic
An overview of argument and persuasion (Classical, Rogerian,
Logic (deduction, induction, fallacies)
Developing research questions
Using sources (library and databases, documentation, MLA
format, works cited)
Before you turn in your final paper, you will be required to complete the
two preliminary assignments below:
PROSPECTUS: A one-page proposal that states your working thesis
and outlines the steps you will take in the research process.
2. WORKING BIBLIOGRAPHY: An annotated bibliography in MLA
format of the sources you are consulting in your research.
Finally, you will write an 8-10 page paper that meets the guidelines below:
Defend your position, keeping in mind the three elements of classical
persuasion we’ve discussed in class: your credibility with the audience,
the logic of your argument, and the emotional power of your words.
Support the position you take with one or more of the approaches from
the textbook and evidence from your independent research. The articles
you reference should be credible and objective (based on facts, not
feelings or beliefs). You need a minimum of six sources (max. one web
source) that relate to your topic.
Remember to organize your ideas coherently, using logical transitions
and one of the organizing principles we’ve discussed.
Don’t forget to engage the opposing point of view at some point in your
essay— a counter-argument (rebuttal) that addresses differing opinions.
To get credit you must document your sources using MLA format and
include a “Works Cited” page (see the MLA Handbook and the policy for
submitting papers in the syllabus).
You must also attach highlighted or underlined copies of your
sources (in their entirety) to your essay before you turn it in.
THE RESEARCH ESSAY MUST BE COMPLETED TO RECEIVE A PASSING
GRADE IN THIS CLASS.
DEVELOPING A TOPIC AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS FROM THE READING
The role of government
The role of the individual citizen
Justice and the law
Slavery/civil or human rights
Spirit of law vs. letter of law
Rights of minorities
Church and state
Forms of government
When is war justified?
Do elected officials represent the
voters who elected them or all
How should judges interpret the
law? What are the theories that
What constitutes citizenship?
What is the appropriate
relationship between church and
state? What are the points of
view? How can they be
Are elections fair for everyone?
How can they be conducted
What would a better or more
just government look like? What
are the alternative forms?
Should human rights ever be
violated to ensure the safety of
How would Thoreau respond?
Choose one of these questions.
Develop more specific questions as you research.
Respond with a well-constructed argument that takes a clear position on the issue and
RESEARCH PAPER PROSPECTUS
Instructions: After you have done some preliminary investigation of your topic,
write a one-page proposal for your research paper, including all of the following
information. Number, title, and single-space each section.
PURPOSE: What is your working thesis (your claim)?
AUDIENCE: How is the topic relevant to your chosen audience? What
implications will your solution or claim have for them?
BACKGROUND: Summarize the scholarship available on your topic.
Who appear to be the leading authorities? What are the predominant
theories or opposing points of view? What are the key issues in this
field? How does your thesis engage with the current discourse?
4. PROCEDURE: Which sources have you consulted and which do you
intend to consult? Will you be using many primary sources or mostly
secondary sources? How do you justify this decision?
LIMITATIONS/QUALIFIERS: To what extent is your claim justified?
What special circumstances exist that might need to be addressed? Do
you make any concessions to the opposing point of view? Which
scholarship will be left aside and why? Are there any situations in which
your claim will not hold?
6. PRELIMINARY WORKS CONSULTED: Provide a list of MLA citation
information for at least three works you consulted in your
preliminary investigation. Be sure to use the handbook!
7. SOURCE EVALUATION WORKSHEET: Complete the attached
questionnaire concerning ONE of your sources, or type your responses to
the questions and attach them. Is the source appropriate for a
research paper? Why or why not?
WORKING BIBLIOGRAPHY (ANNOTATED)
A week or two before you turn in your research paper, you will need to turn in
an annotated bibliography with at least ten sources. This is a list of the sources
you have been using as you research your topic. The bibliography does not
need to include all the sources you will use in your final paper, nor do you need
to use every work you list in the bibliography. It is just a list of some of the
works you have consulted up to this point. After each entry, you must include
three to five sentences describing the source. These sentences may be a
summary of the article, a critique of the article, a discussion of how the work
might be useful for your topic, or all of the above. Below is a sample taken from
a paper on the American writer Henry Miller. Be sure to use your MLA
handbook to get the format correct.
Allen, Mary. “Henry Miller: Yea-Sayer.” Tennessee Studies in Literature 23
(1978): 100-10. Print.
Mary Allen argues that Miller is a voice of joy, which is unconventional in an era
when much writing expresses despair. She mentions his desire for more freedom, an echo
of Thoreau’s Walden. She views the novel as a statement in favor of freedom, yet notes
that the freedom comes at the cost of love, since Miller’s happiness often stems from
another’s loss. For Allen, Miller represents an escape from illusion and responsibility in
order to find love for life, “as is.” He is a reminder to readers that joy does exist.
Hoffman, Michael J. “Miller’s Debt to Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, et al.: Miller
and the Apocalypse of Transcendentalism.” Lost Generation Journal 4.3
(1976-77): 18-21. Print.
Hoffman places Miller in the transcendental tradition, comparing his
autobiographical-fictional style to that of Whitman and Thoreau. Hoffman also identifies
Miller as an “apocalyptist,” citing his desire to defame the sacred and bring about a
revolution. Hoffman finds similarities to Nietzsche, as well, in Miller’s Zarathustrian
monologues designed to bring about the evolution of humankind.
Jackson, Paul R. “Henry Miller, Emerson, and the Divided Self.” American
Literature 43.2 (1971 ): 231-41. Print.
Jackson traces the influence of Emerson in Miller’s writing. He points out the
prophetic tone of some of Miller’s statements. Jackson also examines the influence of
Emerson’s concern for autobiographical writing on Miller, emphasizing the idea of
multiple levels of the self. Truthfully recording the full emancipation of this self, Jackson
argues, is Miller’s subject in the autobiographical novels.
SOURCE EVALUATION WORKSHEET
(to be turned in with your Prospectus)
Instructions: Using the following questions as a guide, evaluate one of the sources you
use in your research paper. You may include your responses on a separate sheet of
Previewing the source
1. TITLE: What does the title suggest about the author’s attitude toward the
subject? What can you tell about the article’s content simply from the title?
AUTHOR: What background information, if any, are you given on the
DATE: How recent is the source? Is it likely that new information has come
into existence since the publication? Of what use is the source if it is old?
PUBLISHER: What do you know about the publisher?
KIND OF INFORMATION: Is this a source that will provide background
information on your topic? Are there key terms and concepts here? A
particular point of view?
YOUR ATTITUDE: Before reading the source, have you made any
assumptions that might affect an objective reading? Are you open-minded
on the topic? Is this source likely to affect your opinion?
Reading the source
1. MAIN POINT: What is the author’s main point? Can you determine his or
her purpose and audience?
SUPPORT: What is the basis of the author’s support? Which statements
are unsupported? Is there enough information to convince the reader?
What questions are left unanswered?
SOURCES: Are the sources adequately documented? Do the sources
appear reliable? Why or why not? Do they reveal a bias? What has been
4. LANGUAGE/STYLE: Does the author use any ambiguous or undefined
terms? Does the author use inflammatory examples (emotional appeals)?
What is the tone of the work?
Pick a few important passages (quotes you might use) from the article, and copy
them to your response (Be sure to use quotation marks and record page
Adapted from Taking a Stand by Irene Clark
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