Context: A term paper is a research paper written by students over an academic term, accounting for a large part of a grade. The online version of Merriam-Webster defines a term paper as "a major writing assignment in a school or college course representative of a student’s achievement during a term." Term papers are generally intended to describe an event, a concept, or argue a point. The term paper is a written original work discussing a topic in detail, usually several typed pages in length, and is often due at the end of a semester. For Essay 4, you will be engaging in this time-honored tradition by submitting a rather lengthy essay representative of the work you have been doing all semester. In our case, the term paper will represent the knowledge you have gained over the course of the semester through research, analysis, discussion, and writing about culture.

Assignment: You have been preparing to write Essay 4 all semester. The structures of Essays 1 through 3 will make up Essay 4. In other words, you will, basically, be using the structures of Essays 1 through 3, but you will focus on just one culture or cultural phenomenon of your choosing. You may choose a culture with which you identify as a member or as an outsider. You will benefit from thinking of your research paper as being comprised of three parts which largely parallel Essays 1-3 in structure. 

Part 1 

Option 1: Write about an event or memory that defines your place in a particular culture. You may want to reflect on your childhood experiences—your family, your likes and dislikes, particular events that shape who you are, role models, etc. Then consider the ways those early experiences might account for the type of culture you feel a part of today or once felt a part of. The key here is not so much to tell a story, but rather to illuminate a culture and its impact on you (and on other members of the culture) through the lens of that event. "Valley of the Gun" as well other assigned readings may serve as examples of ethnographic narrative.

Option 2: Think about a culture you participate in and identify with. You goal will be to describe that culture to outsiders by focusing on a few elements of it in detail. Use vivid description to convey these elements and reflect on the cultural values they represent 

Option 3: Conduct an interview with another member of the particular culture you describe. Put your interviewee’s point of view in dialogue, or perhaps in tension, with your own. You will not simply be reporting an interview. Rather you will want to integrate parts of the other person’s perspective into your essay.

Part 2

Choose one or two cultural artifacts from the culture that you are exploring and analyze the values that the artifact or artifacts convey. What hopes, preferences, or ideas do these artifacts communicate? What do these values (and thus these artifacts) reveal about your community? About society as a whole? Next, critically consider whether or not mainstream American cultures agrees with the values conveyed by your artifact or artifacts, and why. Explore where these considerations place your chosen culture in relationship to mainstream American culture.

Part 3

This part of the assignment asks that you identify some striking feature of the culture you are exploring, then compare and contrast both insider and outsider perspectives, discussions, and explanations of that phenomenon so that you can better explain the causes and effects of that practice.

Academic discourse often favors the outside expert’s point of view. For example, if you were to explore female genital mutilation, you would likely hear many voices from outsiders, most of whom would likely be, understandably, critical of the practice. However, in this assignment, an essay that only explored this outsider position would be incomplete. You must go further and find insider voices, people for whom the practice is natural and normal, or at least those who have experienced it firsthand. 

Your term paper should have a clear thesis which is explored and evinced in your analysis. In other words, the various sections of the term paper should be organized by an overarching thesis. What, after having read your term paper, do you want your reader to understand about your culture? This thesis should be stated in the introductory paragraph and should adhere to the conventions regarding thesis statements. The various sections of your essay should serve to develop and establish your thesis. 

Sources: You will need at least 12 sources for this final installment of your essay, one of which must be Clash!. Some of the research you have conducted for essays one through three may be relevant to your term paper. If so, please use them for Essay 4.   

The sources required for Essay 4 will largely mirror the required sources for Essay 1-3, which are detailed below:

Part1: You will need only one outside source for this assignment: Clash! How can ideas from Clash!, specifically the introduction and chapters 1-2, help you better analyze your culture?  Your use of Clash! should be highly applicable to your analysis. Further, your use of Clash! should reflect critical analysis and evince nuanced understanding of the text. However, most of your evidence for your thesis will come from first-person experience. 

Part2: You will use 3 additional sources in the essay.  The sources should be applicable to your analysis, and you should consider articles, books, and dependable web sources. Only one of your sources can come from in-class material, and no more than one source should be a website.

 You will need at least four sources. We will discuss different types of sources and their appropriate use. Among your sources you must include: 

  • Clash!
  • One insider source of your choosing
  • One multimedia source representing insider perspective
  • One additional academic article accessed through our college databases

Part3: This assignment challenges us to find authority outside traditional institutions. Consequently, it may be challenging to determine whose voice is authoritative on a given subject. For example, a paper exploring the issue of sexual violence facing Native American women on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation would want to look at the work of sociologists, anthropologists, and similar experts dealing with this issue; however, it would be necessary to listen to those who are directly affected by this phenomenon — the survivors. Finding these unmediated insider voices can be more challenging. For this half of your research you may use social media posts like Instagram and Twitter; visual media such as TV, movies, photography, and paintings; novels, poetry, or essays; as well as interviews with native participants, which you may conduct yourself. 

Structure: You have some freedom in the organization of your essay, but it must be organized logically so that your thesis

Organization: The organization of this essay should be the order in which you wrote the previous essays. As this is much longer essay, transitions between paragraphs and ideas become much more important. In a shorter essay, transitions are less important. Most people can follow along for a five paragraphs, but as this essay is much longer, your kind guidance of the reader through the use of transitions and effective use of paragraphs becomes more necessary.  

You might think of this essay as having three distinct parts. These three parts should be comprised of the rhetorical modes we have explored this semester: 

  • Essay 1: 
    • Narration
    • Description
    • Exemplification
  • Essay 2: 
    • Process analysis
    • Division and classification
  • Essay 3:
    • Comparison and contrast
    • Cause and effect 
  • In addition to the above sections, your term paper should also contain the devices introduced during term paper assignment:
    • Classification
    • Argument and persuasion

The Purpose: This is a term paper (sometimes referred to as a research paper). The purpose of this assignment is to teach you the process for writing longer essays, a requirement of the upper-division work waiting for you at the university. But more importantly, this assignment is intended to teach you how to develop a respectable level of knowledge and how to communicate the depth and complexity of your knowledge in writing.

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