Purpose To research a topic, compile information from a variety of sources about it, synthesize that information, draw conclusions regarding that information, develop an assertion from your conclusion

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To research a topic, compile information from a variety of sources about it, synthesize that information, draw conclusions regarding that information, develop an assertion from your conclusions, and present your argument/assertion (thesis) with evidence using an appeal to logos in the form of a well-developed and properly documented essay. See pages 356-373 of Norton Field Guide for how to argue logically.

Research Topic

A controversial/debatable topic approved by me through your research proposal (DB). You may select any debatable, focused position to argue as long as ties to one of the three options. Your topic must be narrowed and focused. See “Research 101” handout from the Eastfield Library. See also pages 345-349 of NFG for information on thesis statements (specifically how to narrow thesis statements).

Since your topic must be debatable by other reasonable people, it cannot argue for or against established facts. So, “cigarettes are harmful to human health” as a topic could not be approved because this is already an established scientific fact. Work with Mary or Linsdey, your course librarians (see below), for help finding and narrowing topics.

Option 1: Making Connections to Other Coursework

Choose a topic related to your other classes’ course content.

This was one of my favorite things to do in college: I would use an assignment for one class to study for another class. I called it “double-dipping,” and it’s allowed as long as you do not commit academic dishonesty. (This means that it is not okay to submit the same essay for one class that you submit to another.) It is a way to save time while also making connections between fields.

Example: I’m in Dr. Tolle’s ENGL 1301 class but I’m also in Dr. Martinez’s HIST 1301 class. There will be a final exam in HIST 1301, and Dr. Martinez says that on the test, you should “be able to explain the causes of the Civil War.” You know that this is pretty complex, which means that there will probably be a debatable topic in there. You decide to find a controversial/debatable topic related to the causes of the Civil War that you can research and write about for the Research Paper in Dr. Tolle’s class. While doing your paper for Dr. Tolle’s class, you are also preparing for your final exam in Dr. Martinez’s class. You are also making connections between your classes.

Option 2: Making Connections to Your Career or Field of Study

Choose a topic related to your career or field of study.

Example: I work in medical billing but my field of study is social work. At work, I have seen the distress people face when encountering financial barriers to health care. So, for the Research Paper, I decided to find a controversial/debatable topic about the role of social workers in public healthcare efforts. This will allow me to explore my professional and academic interests.

Option 3: Explore Your Passions or Current Interests

Choose a topic related to something you are interested in: a passion, a hobby, an “obsession.”

Example: I am fascinated with Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, the wife of Prince Harry. I have seen a few memes that make it seem like the British press is unfair to her. So, for the Research Paper, I decided to find a controversial/debatable topic related to Markle’s relationship with the media in Britain, America, and Canada. That way, I can write about something I’m really interested in.

Narrowing Topics

Since your topic must be debatable by other reasonable people, it cannot argue for or against established fact. So, “cigarettes are harmful to human health” will not be approved, because this is already an established scientific fact, so there is nothing to defend.

Examples of broad vs. narrow(er):

Too broad: “popular music”

Too broad: “Immigration”

Too broad: “guns”

Too broad: “climate change”

Too broad: “Mexican-American literature”

Topics that will not be approved:

abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment/death penalty, autism-vaccination link (no such thing), animal testing, women’s sports (a dog-whistle for anti-trans rhetoric), “technology is bad” (must be specific), topics that rely on religious doctrine as evidence (remember to appeal to logos – writing about religion isn’t a problem, but using religion as evidence limits your audience)

Be creative! Do something new! Find an issue within a topic you are already passionate about. Hint for choosing topics: if your position is something few people would disagree with (“child abuse is harmful”), then you haven’t narrowed it enough.

Course Librarians

Mary Meyers and Lindsey Bartlett, Learning Commons

Minimum Writing Requirements

1200 words minimum, 2000 words maximum (concision is vital – see L6 in handbook section of your textbook). Word count does not include heading, title, or Works Cited page. It goes from the first word of the intro to the last word of the conclusion.

No first person –

No contractions. “isn’t” —> “is not”; “doesn’t” —> “does not”

Second person – NEVER. (Unless in a quote.) Automatic 50 if used even once. Use CTRL+F to find them!

Passive voice –

Multi-paragraph format (introduction with thesis statement, body paragraphs, conclusion). See pp. 313-314 for editing paragraphs. See also the paragraphing section of the Style in Academic Arguments handout.

Minimum of two citations/uses of sources in every body paragraph.  This minimum will force you to accomplish two things: 1) stick with the evidence and avoid mere opinion, and 2) develop your body paragraphs sufficiently. You may incorporate citations into your intro and conclusion as well, but this is not required.

Use the quote sandwich when embedding quotes.

Every body paragraph must have a topic sentence that states the overall claim of the paragraph. This means that no body paragraph should begin with a quote, a statement of fact, or a question.

Typed in size 12 Times New Roman font. Submit to eCampus as .docx file (no other filetype accepted) for final draft.

One-inch margins, double-spaced, header, heading, etc.

MLA documentation and in-text citations required

MLA Works Cited required, in proper format

Minimum Research Requirements

A minimum of 2 sources, both of which pass TRAAP test.

General encyclopedias or dictionaries do not count. Such sources are too broad/general. This includes print and electronic editions of works like World Book, Wikipedia, Webster’s, and Encarta.

Any internet sources must be credible, expert, authoritative, reliable, academic sources that pass the TRAAP test. Do not use sites such as About.com, WebMD, eHow, eNotes.com, Shmoop, Booknotes.com, Chegg.com, Wikipedia.org, etc.

Things that will HURT your grade

NOT having a strong, clear claim (thesis)

Poor organization—(thesis, topic sentences, logical paragraphs)

Wordiness, redundancy, deadwood. Be concise. Never say in 10 words what you can say in 5. See L-6 in your textbook.

Excessive use of passive voice. Use active voice.

Quotes from your source with no explanation or connection to the thesis

Quotes that are not embedded: don’t expect higher than a C if you fail to embed quotes.

Failing to address your opposition’s potential claims

Using weak sources or sources that are not academic/credible/reliable

Asking rhetorical questions. Essays should answer questions, not ask them. Don’t ask your readers questions — give them answers.

Things that will result in a FAILING GRADE

Failure to use all required sources

The lack of citations from required sources in every body paragraph

Not following the formal tone guidelines described on page 2.

The lack of a Works Cited page in proper format giving full credit to your sources

(It is your responsibility to consult your textbook and Purdue OWL to compile your WC properly)

Use of sources that do not appear on the WC page.

Inclusion of sources on the WC page that are never cited in the paper (it’s called a “Works Cited” page for a reason)

Overuse of quotes (85%-90% should be your words, which means less than 10% should be from other sources, even if documented correctly).

Quotes/specific details from your source without parenthetical documentation

A mere summary of the issue/topic (which would be informative, not argumentative)

Exact words from a source without quotation marks (which is plagiarism)

Failure to meet the minimum length requirement

Plagiarism → automatic zero

Late submission without prior approval → automatic zero

Things I’m looking for while grading:


Purpose: Your essay provides a clearly defined purpose.

Introduction: Your introduction captures the attention of your readers and your main points (thesis statement) are clearly articulated.


Scope: Key ideas are focused throughout the paper and descriptive examples of ideas are included.

Depth: Complete and relevant development of ideas supported by specific examples.


Focus: Organized around a focus stated in a thesis statement. Your paper is written in a logical order.

Relationship: The relationship of ideas is clear; transitional sentences are used to guide the reader.

Structure: All paragraphs support your main idea; paragraphs are structured around controlling ideas.


Outside sources must be cited using MLA style in-text citations AND listed on a Works Cited page, as the last page of the paper.

Conventions/Correctness: Your paper reflects careful proofreading (checking for errors).

Working Draft Rubric

For more information about the Working Draft, please look at the “What Is a Working Draft?” handout.

100: Working draft is complete (has all parts), with MLA, intro, body, conclusion, and Works Cited page and shows signs of having been proofread before the deadline.

90ish: Working draft is complete but does not show signs of proofreading or still contains numerous “automatic 50” issues. Or, the working draft deviates largely from MLA.

80ish: Working draft is missing Works Cited but is otherwise complete.

70ish: Draft is a rough draft, not a working draft, or it is missing something more than WC page.

50ish: Draft exists; is halfway complete. Or, draft contains accidental plagiarism.

0: Draft is not halfway complete. Or, draft not on time.


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