The assignment: compose a 6-7 page persuasive essay, open topic with caveat that it must relate to education and must incorporate at least seven sources (books, articles including ones from our reader, online sources, interviews, surveys, etc.). You will need to identify a question or problem concerning some aspect of education that interests you and, hopefully, your audience (your classmates and any additional audience you specify). To pick a topic, consider consulting with friends and/or reviewing the problem you identified in the First Assignment, “Education in the News” posts, and reader responses (yours and others’): perhaps an idea you only touched on in the past could be the basis for your research paper. In short, This Essay offers you an opportunity to explore some area of interest that you’ve always wished you could find out more about. Above all, pick a topic about which you feel passionate and try to convince others to feel the same.
A tip: some students think of the research they have discovered as resources that they merely “plug into” their papers in order to answer the questions posed by the essay prompt. But our class has used the metaphor of writing as “conversation.” As in a satisfying and dynamic conversation, a successful research paper is one in which there is a give and take between the participants (the student writer and the sources she/he uses), where ideas can be analyzed, challenged, modified, and used as points of departure in the creation of new ideas.
For these reasons, your goal is not to just summarize others’ research, as you may have done in high school. Rather, it is to know what others have said on a topic and then weigh in yourself, with your own “I Say” position. Try to come up with a question that could be answered differently by different interpretations of the evidence. Avoid topics that are obvious or too broad to be treated adequately in 6-7 page essay (“Are the liberal arts important?”) and avoid above all mere reporting (presenting the facts about a situation) rather than arguing (taking a stand about the significance of those facts). Seek complications in your thesis and evidence: highlight for your readers issues that they might not have thought about before (“Critics complain that partying has become too prominent on college campuses, but this view obscures the extent to which partying has been a part of university life from its inception”). Some sample research essays are here:
Examples of research questions (need not be specifically University related!):
N.B.: This paper differs from previous papers you have done in this class in that I am requiring that some of your sources (you must have a minimum of seven) must be from McHenry Library and/or the online databases. In short, the research you incorporate into this paper must include a variety of scholarly secondary sources; sources from the Web, interviews, etc. remain acceptable sources but you must integrate credible published and ideally peer-reviewed sources as well.
2 years ago