ENGL 1102 - Thompson (Paulding) - Spring 2021

Research Essay

The Research Paper: A Preview

The Golden Standard

The "Research Paper" is the golden standard for college assignments. Some version of it can be found in nearly every college course, so it's important that you learn how to write a really good research paper. Some college students treat a research paper as an "information dump," adding whatever information they find in their research of the topic, often in a series of mini-book reports that just list the facts from each source. These papers are often poorly organized and don't present a coherent perspective on the original topic. This is not what professors are seeking and such papers often receive very low grades even when sources are cited correctly and length requirements are met. 

A good research paper will...

  • draw a conclusion about the topic/present an argument (thesis)
  • synthesize the information from a variety of sources into a new whole that supports the conclusion/thesis being presented
  • include source material from more than one source in each body paragraph to demonstrate corroboration between sources on each subtopic
  • exclude some information on the topic because it's not relevant to the argument being made
  • only include information from reliable, preferably scholarly, sources
  • be clearly organized
  • be written in a formal tone, typically using 3rd person point-of-view and excluding 1st and 2nd points of view (I, we, us, our, you, your)
  • meet length requirements and provide appropriate documentation, including in-text citations

In this class, you are going to work through the process of writing a research paper. You will start with an Annotated Bibliography, and then provide me with a single body paragraph, so I can give you important feedback on tone, documentation, etc. Once you complete your research paper, I will give you written feedback again. You'll complete a reverse outline and seek input from your peers before completing a thorough revision of your essay, so you end the semester knowing that the next time you're faced with a term paper, research project, research essay, etc., you will know exactly how to proceed and succeed. 

Finding the Silver Lining

When people think of catastrophic events, they usually focus on the destruction or loss of life, but these difficult events often bring out the best in human beings and lead to advances in medicine, the economy, social justice, infrastructure, or other areas of society. These positive outcomes do not lessen the tragedy, but they do create a "silver lining." You will choose a catastrophic event that affected the United States between 1870 and 2005. This can be a man made event such as a war, or it can be an act of Mother Nature such as a hurricane or earthquake.

Possible Topics:

  • World War I
  • World War II
  • The Vietnam War
  • The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
  • The Great New York Blizzard of 1888
  • The September 11th Attacks (limit 2 students--email me asap if you want this topic)
  • 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
  • The Great Depression
  • The Assignation of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The Watergate Scandal
  • 1970's Energy Crisis
  • Hurricane Katrina (limit 2 students--email me asap if you want this topic)

If you want to choose an event that's not on the list above, you'll need to email me for topic approval. 

You will need to choose a topic prior to starting the Search Strategies module. Once you submit your Annotated Bibliography in Module 3, you will be committed to your topic for the semester, so exploring it during the Search Strategies module is a good way to get started and be sure you don't want to change topics prior to the bibliography.

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