You will write an academic essay that attempts to answer your self-defined research question about your chosen (and approved) topic

English 101          Spring 2018         Research Paper
You will write an academic essay that attempts to answer your self-defined research question about your chosen (and approved) topic. The answer to your question will come in the form of a sophisticated thesis that presents a well-balanced, evidence-based perspective. This essay should not be a report or regurgitation of the sources you find in your research; instead, it should forward an original argument or idea—even if it’s only a slight departure from your sources already say.

  • Demonstrate your ability to analyze and use information from sources;
  • Demonstrate your ability to make a sophisticated academic argument that accounts for multiple perspectives;
  • Demonstrate your ability to craft a text that is accessible, engaging, and appropriate for a particular audience;
  • Demonstrate that you can locate secondary source materials from library databases and other information repositories (not just Google!)
  • Understand and represent key arguments and ideas from secondary source materials
  • Evaluate secondary source materials for relevance, authority, and currency.


  • Length: This essay will require more sustained attention to sources and to reasoning, so it should be no less than 8-10 pages.
  • Sources: You will need to reference several sources for this essay; however, the quality of your sources matters more than the quantity.

o Typically, for an essay of this length, you should expect to have at least 4 scholarly (peer-reviewed) secondary sources
o At least 2 primary sources (anything that provides you with raw, un-analyzed data that you can use to draw conclusions about some aspect of your research question.)

  • Counterargument or Qualifying Argument: At some point in your essay, you must acknowledge and address an idea from an outside source that runs—even if only partially—against your thesis statement. Remember that not all counterarguments need to directly disagree with your thesis; it might be that the counterargument helps you to qualify exactly where/when your thesis might be valid, and where/when it would not be.
  • Audience: For this final essay, imagine that you are writing for a broader public audience. Your readers are not people who took this class with you, but neither are they readers who would appreciate having their intelligence insulted. Imagine your essay is published in a “serious” popular periodical from which a casual reader would expect to learn something new. How will you orient them to your essay’s goals? How will you share what you know from your references without confusing them or boring them? What are some common ways a reader might doubt your argument, and how can you address that doubt?
  • Document formatting:
  • 12-point, Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins.
  • Double-space the entire document


  • Please number your pages on the top right corner of each page.
  • Use MLA citation style with precision. Be careful with in-text citations, and please include page numbers even when you are paraphrasing from sources.
  • Please put your full name at the top left corner of the first page of the essay; underneath that, put the course name, then date, then “Research essay”
  • Your essay should have an original title centered below your name/date, etc. Remember this is in plain font, no bolding, underlining or quotation marks.


  • March 17: Topic Proposal/outline due
  • March 24: Draft 1 due (print and bring to class, AND submit to Canvas). We will have a peer review workshop.
  • April 7: Draft 2 due (print and bring to class, AND submit to Canvas). We will have a peer review workshop.
  • April 14: Presentation of research. You will give a 5-minute presentation of your research. You may want to create a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation. Your presentation should include your clearly defined thesis statement; your supporting and counter arguments; as well as where you could imagine your research going in a future project.
  • April 15: Final essay due (upload to Canvas)


  • Research question and proposal (10 points)
  • Draft 1 (20 points)
  • Peer review (10 points)
  • Draft 2 (20 points)
  • Peer review (10 points)
  • Presentation of research (20 points)
  • Final essay (160 points—breakdown below)


  Criteria for a Successful Project
Purpose x  Clearly articulate the problem or question being investigated
30 points x  Develops a clearly “original” thesis that takes a particular perspective on (or answer to)
  the research question
  x  Follows that argument throughout the text (doesn’t stray off topic).
Audience x  Is accessible and appealing to audience outside of class.
30 points x  Explains why the argument matters, and to whom.
  x  Is organized and concise enough to maintain audience interest throughout.
  x  The language is appealing and engaging to general readers. Jargon is limited; when
  used, it is explained.
  x  Provides clear transitional cues and preview/review statements to help guide readers
  through the text.
Content x  Presents analysis and response to primary and secondary sources in order to shape the
50 Points argument.
  x  Integrates response to sources in a seamless and logical way, steering clear of
  summarization and “regurgitation”; it includes not only ideas of other sources, but also
  the author’s original thought and analysis.
  x  Acknowledges and potentially refutes counterarguments in order to present a more
  complex and complete discussion of the subject.
Text x  Uses correct MLA style in-text citations anytime sources are referenced.
25 points x  Is carefully proofread to remove unintended errors in grammar and mechanics.
Sources x  Evidence to support argument is drawn from a variety of sources.
25 points x  All sources are of high quality: they are relevant to the argument, reasonably credible,
  and reasonably current.
  x  Potential shortcomings of sources (such as limits to research methods or limited
  applicability to the essay’s claims) are acknowledged in the essay.