Writing in the Disciplines


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Research Paper Requirements


Dr. Ann Shapiro

Your research paper should be a reasoned argument of about 1,000 words in response to one of the questions on the topic sheet or in response to a question that you formulate after consultation with me.

You must use at least three sources.  Since your paper deals with contemporary issues,  the Internet can be an excellent source for articles, but at least one of your sources should be a recent book.  All sources must be listed in the Works Cited section that will follow the text, and parenthetical references should be used wherever you use a direct quote or refer to information found in an outside source.  Follow MLA style (Hacker, 122-141 or Connections 557-62).  Format should follow the sample research paper in Connections (569-74). Double-space.  Do not use folders. Staple upper left corner.  Place heading on upper left corner.

Spelling, punctuation, grammar and sentence structure are expected to be perfect because you will use spell-check and revise carefully.  When in doubt, check your handbook.

Your grade will be based on the persuasiveness of your argument , which will be reinforced by proper documentation of sources.  Therefore, you must be careful to understand and evaluate what you have read, and you must be accurate in your presentation of material.  Your findings are to be used systematically and intelligently to support your own thesis.  An anthology of other people’s words and ideas is an exercise in plagiarism, not a research paper.           

The Research Paper:  Suggested Topics

The following suggested topics are related mainly to issues discussed throughout the course.  You may choose one of these topics, or you may choose your own topic, which I must approve.

1.  Reread "The War on Alcohol" by Anna Quindlen (444-46),  where she argues that alcohol is an enormous threat and should probably be treated as a dangerous drug.  Is alcohol a dangerous drug?  If so, why?  If not, why not, and what reasoned response can you make to Quindlen's main points?

2.  What are the most significant documented behavioral differences between men and women?  Do these differences suggest any reasons for treating boys and girls or men and women differently?  Support your conclusions with relevant evidence.

 3.  Although Jeffrey Gibson does not specifically address the issue of gay/lesbian marriage, his arguments about gay/lesbian adoptions suggest reasons why he would advocate homosexual marriage.  While most states permit gays and lesbians to adopt, no states permit them to marry.  What documented evidence exists to explain why gay/lesbian marriages should or should not be legal?

4.  Select an issue related to technology and ethics, such as cloning, various forms of surrogate parenting, prolonging life, or any other issue concerning ethics and technology that interests you, and explain with evidence why the practice should or should not be lawful.

5.  Affirmative action laws have been under fire.  Recently the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in a case brought against the University of Michigan.   Consider the arguments raised in that case and/or arguments raised in some prominent recent cases, and argue for or against retaining affirmative action laws.

6.  Many people believe that there is a national crisis in our schools.  Both federal and state governments have been seeking reform by introducing more standardized tests to raise standards.  Look at a few articles by leading educators in journals published by various graduate schools of education or other reputable sources.  Why do you think schools are failing, and what are some possible solutions?

Using Source Material

1.  Sources must be identified clearly in both parenthetical references and works cited.

2.  There should always be a reason for quoting.  Typically the reason is that you are using the opinion of an expert to support a point.  Otherwise the paper should be written in your own words.  There is no need to quote factual information.

3.  You should always make clear where the information from one text ends, and information from a different text is being used.

4.  All sources are not equal.  You must use reliable sources.  For example, if you want medical information, you want a doctor or other medical expert.  If you want legal information, you want to cite legal decisions or a distinguished lawyer.  Talk radio or TV commentary may be very biased or even inaccurate.

5.  Use common sense.  If a statement seems questionable, don’t mindlessly copy it down--even if you read it somewhere.

6.  A personal Web site may not be a reliable source, since anyone can post a Web site.

7.  Information that has nothing to do with your thesis does not belong in your paper, even if it is accurate or interesting.

 8.  When giving scientific or technical information, you must always cite a source.

9.  Works Cited should list articles by name of author or name of article.  The reader should be able to identify name or article title from the parenthetical reference in the alphabetically listed works cited.  Don’t force your reader to play a guessing game.

10.  A paper should reflect your thorough understanding of the issues.  Mindlessly copying information from sources, even if you change a few words, does not constitute a research paper.

Research Paper Checklist    

1.  Format should be that of sample research paper in Connections (557-620)
            A.  Parenthetical references are required.
            B.   Works Cited section must follow text and must contain at least three sources, at least one of which should be a book.
            C.    Paper should be stapled in the upper left corner and heading should be in upper right corner

2.  Quotes should be used sparingly.  Use quotes only when you need the authority of an expert.  Be sure to identify the writer of the quoted material and, if possible, include title and/or  professional affiliation.  Example: Dr. John Doe, Chief of Oncology at Memorial Hospital. Quote accurately.

3.  Be sure that your thesis answers your research question and that your thesis is supported by relevant arguments.

4.  Check your paper for accuracy.  Differentiate between facts and opinions.

5.  Be sure that all your sources are reliable.  Do not use any source where you cannot identify the writer or the agency.  Opinions from nowhere are not reliable.

6.  Use spell check and grammar check.  Pay attention to paragraph structure.

7.  Avoid plagiarism.  You may not copy from a text even if you use parenthetical reference.  The  paper must be your own words and ideas.      

8.  The paper must be at least 1,000 words of original text--not quotes.