Research Essay Instructions:
Length: 1200 (+) words (not including Works Cited) in MLA format, 12-point font, double-spaced
Source minimum: Three scholarly and two popular sources (5 sources total)
Citation: You must include a “Works Cited” page and use correct MLA format for in-text (parenthetical) citations.
Assignment: In this assignment, you are to write an essay that either…
1. …examines an issue of importance within your academic discipline (or, if as of yet undecided, your potential academic discipline). You will be graded on your ability to present an informed, effective argument that demonstrates your understanding of the subject, displays your research into its issues, effectively uses source material (in summary, paraphrase, and cogent quotations), and reaches logical, substantiated conclusions based on well organized and subordinated claims.
2. …or offers a literary interpretation of a literary work or collection of works. In this case, your thesis should offer a reading/interpretation of a text based on your analysis of the primary text(s) and your research into the surrounding issues or scholarship. Using the text as a primary source, you should ground your claims within the text and use secondary sources, criticism or otherwise, to bolster your claims.
Your final drafts is expected to contain a cogent, well-formed argument based on that preliminary work and to be presented in the MLA style, which is a required, graded element of this assignment.
• Your paper must begin with an original thesis based on an independent assertion grounded in the research into your field.
o Begin with research/reading, not writing. Start your research from an area of interest, an idea, a set of works, a hunch, and after delving into the current research into that topic see if you can offer an original take, a differing opinion, or a deeper insight into what is already there. In other words, you should aim to contribute a new idea to your field of study.
• Unpublished, unsubstantiated “sources” are not sources at all. Books, scholarly journals, and other published writing are the only acceptable form of research (e.g. no Wikipedia or the like).
o You might make an appointment with a research librarian to show you how to use scholarly databases, or you might see about meeting with someone already working in your proposed field to see if they could offer advice/tips.
• There is no substitute for hard work. Although generations have tried, it is not possible (at the very least, terribly difficult) to “fake” quality research. There is no substitute for time. Reading/researching takes hours and requires self-discipline and sacrifice. This is the crux of your college career, so learn good habits now. Poorly researched work is easily recognizable to those deeply entrenched in the academic community, and your grade on this assignment will reflect both your ability to articulate a set of arguments and the quality of your research.
• Outlining is vital. You will be handling multiple sources with multiple nuanced ideas, so having a clear understanding of how these varied puzzle pieces fit together cannot be overemphasized. Map out your paper clearly before you begin writing or you may get bogged down in the details and/or thrown off of your initial claims by chasing proverbial rabbits.
• Follow the guidelines for quotations that we have discussed, including introducing your quote, quoting it according to MLA standards, and, most importantly, explaining the use of that particular quotation in the context of your overall argument/essay.
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