ENG 102: The Research Paper 

Assignment: The theme for our class is “Identity.”  We have been exploring this theme through texts and discussions. Refer to your log assignments as you begin your research. 

To complete this paper, you must choose a focus, design an investigative question, conduct research using scholarly sources (refer to the library orientations) and your texts.

If you are still not sure about a topic, here are a few more ideas for possible topics:

Race & advertising (you will need to get more specific; i.e. Latinos & media, representations of Asian women, race and the fashion industry, race and modeling, Eating disorders and the media etc.)

Representations of women in the music industry (music videos, album covers, etc.)

Masculinity studies and pop rock/skateboarding culture/hip-hop/etc.

Sexuality and the media (television, film, music, blogosphere, twitter verse, etc.)

Beauty standards such as specific product lines like fragrances, cars, Mac computers, etc.) and television for particular age groups, racial groups, etc.

Disney (or other children’s shows/cartoons/literature) and representations of gender/race. 

Racial stereotypes and professional sports and gender and sport culture (i.e. coverage of women’s sports vs. men’s)

The World Cup (or international football/soccer) and the question of a "national" team (i.e. players who weren’t born in a particular country)…you could also explore racial dynamics and international football

To answer your central/ investigative question, you will pose a variety of supporting questions, the answers to which will lead you closer to an answer to the main question (refer to logs 1 & 2).  You will arrive at that answer through a process that includes a careful examination of available evidence: summarizing information, analyzing arguments, synthesizing ideas, and generally taking a critical view of that evidence.  Your Research Paper will not merely inform or explain; it will make judgments and draw conclusions based on the evidence presented.  Be sure that the guiding question you choose to answer in the paper does not call for mere reporting or explaining. 

You will then write a paper using the MLA 8th style (minimum ten pages) that will answer your question by analyzing and drawing conclusions based on the available evidence that you will   research. 

Rhetorical situation 

Unfortunately, we frequently form a judgment first and only afterward seek out support for that judgment.  Such an approach turns the critical-thinking process on its head.  By contrast, in this Research Paper you will start not with a judgment but a question that you will investigate and attempt to answer through information you discover.  In other words, you are expected to critically address the question, finding any pertinent information (on any “side” of the question), weighing the data, and only afterward forming a critical judgment that you will share with your audience by summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing that data.  Your Research Paper is your best answer to your central question, based upon the available evidence—not upon politics, prejudice, or personal feelings. 

With this in mind, imagine that you are writing for an audience composed of educated and informed people looking for authoritative, critically sound answers to their questions.  

–Your target audience is those readers/listeners, expecting a carefully reasoned, thoroughly researched treatment of the topic. 

–Your purpose is to provide readers with clear, complete answers to the guiding question.  

–Your task is to raise the level of debate on this issue by thinking critically, reasoning capably, and providing real information that will take the discussion beyond politics, prejudice, and personal feelings. 

–Your role is that of informed and thoughtful researcher. 

Guiding/Central/Investigative question:  Once you have discovered a topic, ask a question that will guide your research.  In other words, ask a question—one your readers might ask—that you will attempt to answer through your research (e.g., “How has social tradition defined the identities(s) of women (or men) in the latter part of the 20th century in the United States (or elsewhere?) How have these roles changed and influenced society? Or, how can a minority cultural identity be threatened or overpowered by the dominant cultural identity in a society?  Choose particular groups to examine”). Refer to logs 1 & 2. 

Ideas and suggestions 

–Avoid badly focused or unproductive research questions, such as those calling for a simple statement of established fact.  On the other extreme are questions calling for a completely subjective judgment that is unaffected by fact.  Also to be avoided are “loaded” questions, those that contain a bias in themselves.  

Find the best sources to help you answer your questions.  Before you accept anything from sources like Wikipedia, be sure you understand what Wikipedia is and how it is created and do not use it!

–Use search engines like Google for general browsing on topics, but when you begin your serious research, it is time to put away such tools and use serious ones.  Go to online databases of periodicals (like EBSCO) and focused search tools like the ones discussed by the librarian. 

–This Research Paper is, in some ways, your introduction to the “academic” approach to ideas.  This means critical thinking about every aspect of the paper, including sources.  Reject any source that seems less than completely credible unless your critique of that source will be part of the way you answer one or more of your research questions. 

–Use your Research Log to keep yourself moving on the Research Paper. (That is its purpose, after all.)  Each entry in the RL should move you forward in a generally logical progression.  It’s not that you can compose the Research Paper simply by slapping together the individual RL entries (for one thing, it probably wouldn’t be long enough), but keeping up with the RL will mean that you’re working on the RP regularly.  It also helps you to build your source list as you go.  

Format and requirements 

Basic Paper Format

General Guidelines

Type your 10 –page (not including the cover page, outline page, and works cited page) paper standard-sized paper (8.5 X 11 inches). 

Double-space your paper. 

You must have a title page.

Following the title page, you will have your thesis statement on a separate page and a formal sentence outline.

The next page will be the start of your paper.  This page will also have the title.

Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides. 

Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Please omit the number on your first page. 

Use either underlining or italics throughout your essay for highlighting the titles of longer works and providing emphasis. 

If you have any notes, include them on a page before your works cited page and format them the same way as your works cited list. 

General Information about the Research Paper

You must use the correct MLA 8th documentation (which includes parenthetical citations and a work cited list at the end of your paper).

Unless it is common knowledge, you must document all information that you use in your paper whether you quote from it or present it in your own words (paraphrase or summary).  The research paper will be 10 FULL typed pages (in standard MLA format) to adequately cover the topic. You must use specific examples whenever possible. Content is most important with this paper, but I will look closely at the form of the essay as well, so you’ll need to edit and proofread to eliminate as many of the spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax errors as possible to earn a high score. 

You must use a minimum of five scholarly sources. You may not use an encyclopedia.  (NOTE: “minimum” does not mean “target number”; your research should be guided not by number of sources but by the completeness of your answer to your investigative question.

Late Paper

Try to get all work in on time – the due date of the rough draft is on your schedule.  A late paper (rough draft due date included) will be lowered by one letter grade. 

Formatting your works cited list

Begin your works cited list on a separate page from the text of the essay. 

Label the works cited list Works Cited (do not underline the words Works Cited nor put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page. 

Double space all entries and do not skip spaces between entries. 

Making reference to works of others in your text

Please refer to your handbook for help with the MLA form.

In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done in two ways. When you make reference to someone else’s idea, either through paraphrasing or quoting them directly, you:

provide the author’s name (or the title of the work) and the page (or paragraph) number of the work in a parenthetical citation 

provide full citation information for the work in your Works Cited list 

This allows people to know which sources you used in writing your essay and then be able to look them up themselves, so that they can use them in their scholarly work. Here are some basic guidelines for referring to the works of others in your text. For additional help with citing the works of others, see our additional resources section. 

Parenthetical Citations

MLA format follows the author-page method of citation. This means that the author’s last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear in your works cited list (see Your Works Cited Page, below). 

The author’s name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. 

For example:

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).

Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).

Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

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