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ENGL 0099 Watjen - Spring 2014: Assignment

Short Research Paper - Instructions


Short Research Paper - Instructions


Assignment: Write a 750- to 1000-word short research paper on a current controversial issue. This paper will be structured as a compare and contrast essay and formatted using MLA style guidelines, including in-text citations, appropriate use of quotes, paraphrasing, attributive tags, and a Works Cited page. You will find detailed instructions for writing a compare and contrast essay, using in-text citations, and creating a Works Cited page on D2L. We have already discussed the use of paraphrasing, attributive tags, and direct quotes.

You will choose one controversial issue that interests you. You can start your search using the Opposing Viewpoints in Context website. A link to this website is provided in D2L. Next, you must find two (2) articles, one for each opposing viewpoint, making certain each article provides cogent evidence that is compelling. You will summarize each viewpoint by listing the reasons and evidence provided by your author. You must include an appropriate combination of paraphrasing and direct quotes when discussing the articles, you must reference both articles within your paper, and you must include a Works Cited page.



·         Choose an issue from the Opposing Viewpoints in Context website (see Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context link on D2L). This issue must be a topic you have recently debated or discussed with someone, heard others discuss or debate, or that affects you personally. You must be motivated by a question you do not already know the answer to!

·         Find two (2) articles, one for each opposing viewpoint on the controversial issue you have selected. Next, read each article carefully, making notes as you go along to make certain you understand what you have read.

·         Summarize each article, focusing on its main points and its most persuasive evidence and reasons. You must use an appropriate combination of paraphrasing and direct quotes when discussing the articles in your paper. (For help on understanding the difference between paraphrasing and direct quotes, see the “Help with Paraphrasing and Direct Quotes” document on D2L.)

·         Reference both articles within your paper and include a Works Cited page at the end of the paper. (For more information on in-text MLA citations, see the “Help with MLA In-Text Citations” link on D2L).





Short Research Paper - Objectives


Short Research Paper




Most students accept without question the viewpoints and positions held by those in authority within their own culture and summarily reject, and occasionally even ridicule, all opposing viewpoints. We believe what we hear growing up without ever questioning whether it is true. Conducting research with this mindset disavows its purpose and is contrary to a rigorous pursuit of the truth.


1.      Your first objective for this assignment is to expand your knowledge on a topic that interests you by gathering information in a scientific, unbiased way. To receive the full benefit of this assignment, you are asked to temporarily suspend your tendency to reject any statement or information that supports a viewpoint that differs from your own. The benefits of doing so are numerous:


  • ·         First, gathering information in this way is not only characteristic of critical thinking, an invaluable skill associated with academic success, and the only way to effectively evaluate evidence, arguments, claims, and beliefs.

  • ·         Secondly, to succeed in today’s job market, you must be able to interact with people from many linguistic and cultural backgrounds with varying viewpoints and perspectives. Being open to the viewpoints of other will help you do so successfully.

  • ·         Lastly, understanding and empathizing with multiple perspectives is the foundation for improved social relations and profoundly superior to “tolerance.”


2.      Secondly, you will be asked to find two sources that provide compelling reasons in support of each viewpoint. Part of the challenge of this assignment is being able to recognize compelling arguments when you see them and recognize the difference between writing that informs and writing that persuades.


3.      Thirdly, you will learn that most of what you hear is someone’s interpretation of the facts, not the facts themselves. Whenever people speak, they have an agenda.


What is true and what is myth?

1.      Drinking eight glasses of water a day is essential for good health.

2.      Bats are blind.

3.      If you cut an earthworm in two, each half will grow into a brand new earth worm.

4.      Hydrogen peroxide helps heal wounds.

5.      Sharks don’t get cancer.



The Do's and Don'ts of Choosing a Topic

Watjen’s English 0099                                                                              Spring Semester 2014




  • Do write about a current issue that interests you. If you find your subject boring, your paper will reflect that.
  • Do choose a topic that is controversial, that is, has two opposing viewpoints. You must find and summarize two sources that provide compelling arguments for each side.
  • Do make certain your topic is narrowly focused. You cannot write about global warming in general because that topic is far too broad for a 750-page research paper. You can write about the effect of global warming on the migration patterns of whales.
  • Do write about a current topic. The more current the topic, the more relevant and interesting your paper will be and the easier it will be to find articles that are credible.
  • Do not choose a topic that has been written about profusely (abortion, gay marriage, global warming, capital punishment, changing the drinking age), unless you have a new, unexplored way of looking at the subject or there is brand new evidence that has not yet been considered.
  • Do not choose a topic that is so obscure it is hard to find information about.
  • Do not wait until the day the paper is due to begin working on this paper. You might discover there is no information on your topic or that there is too much information.
  • Do not choose a topic you have written about or researched in the past. This paper MUST expand your knowledge about a particular issue. If you already have extensive knowledge about a subject, it will defeat the purpose of writing a “research” paper.


A good research paper starts with a question which you don’t know the answer to:

1.      Are Miley Cyrus’s explicit videos, performances, and marijuana usage a threat to society’s values or a reflection of them?

2.      Should student athletes be paid?

3.      Is it unconstitutional to ban same sex marriage?

4.      Do states have the right to legalize marijuana, flagrantly ignoring federal statutes?

5.      Does drug testing welfare recipients violate their civil rights?

6.      Is the incarceration gap in America a result of racism or the result of too many children being raised in single-parent homes?  

7.     Will the Dream Act benefit all Americans by increasing the number of educated and hardworking citizens in this country, or

       simply encourage others to enter this country illegally?

8.     Will the new gun law in Georgia allowing citizens to carry a weapon anywhere, including church, schools, or restaurants,

       increase or decrease violent crime in our state?


Compare and Contrast Essay

Compare and Contrast Essay

When you compare two things, you show how they are similar. When you contrast them, you stress how they differ. Comparison/contrast questions or assignments are common in every discipline. It will be impossible for you to attend college without having to compare and contrast two items, either on an exam or in a paper. As such, your final and most complex writing assignment in this class is a short research paper structured as a compare/contrast essay.


Compare and contrast essays can be written using two methods: alternating or block. In the alternating method (also known as point-by-point method), you compare one characteristic of two subjects. For instance, if you were contrasting the differences between living in the city versus living in the suburbs, you would first contrast the cost of living in the city with the cost of living in the suburbs. Then you would do the same with another characteristic, such as social interaction. In the block method you discuss all the characteristics of one subject, followed by all the characteristics of another subject. Using the example referenced above, you would discuss all the characteristics of living in the city and then you would discuss all the characteristics of living in the suburbs.


You will be using the block method for this assignment. You will provide all the evidence and information you have about one viewpoint, and then, provide all the information and evidence you have about the opposing viewpoint. You WILL NOT alternate back and forth.


Like all 5-pargraph essays, this one will be divided into three parts: an introduction, body, and conclusion as follows:


1.      Introduction

You will begin with an introductory paragraph that introduces and describes the controversial issue you are writing about. Next, you will present the two opposing viewpoints. Then, you must name the two sources you will be using as evidence for each side. Remember to include attribute tags that establish their credibility. Finally, you will declare which side you find most reasonable and give the main reasons why. This statement will serve as your thesis statement for the essay.


2.      Body

The body of the paper will include at least one paragraph for each article, summarizing the article and presenting the author’s position on a controversial issue and the supporting evidence the author uses to support his or her claim. You should present the viewpoint and evidence you disagree with first and explain the error in its logic or why you find the evidence unconvincing. When you summarize the source you find most reasonable, you should explain why you believe this evidence is more cogent.


3.      Conclusion

In the conclusion, summarize the main points of the paper, summarizing the main points of each viewpoint. Then restate your thesis (which viewpoint favor) using different words, and summarize your reasons why. Finally, explain the relevance of this issue to the world at large.


Checklist for Short Research Paper

Checklist for Short Research Paper


1. Introduction includes:

- topic
- background information (including a shocking statistic)

- controversial issue
- two sources and their viewpoints

- sources’ credentials

2. Body includes:

- summaries of each source's articles

- name of article (remember to enclose in quotes)
- many attributive tags: source asserts, believes, writes, explains, describes
- compelling information to support sources' viewpoint.

3. Conclusion includes:

- summary of essay
- significance of the controversial issue (why this controversy should matter to the general public)
- and/or your viewpoint. Which source do you feel is most convincing?

4. Works Cited page



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