For the purpose of this class, Composition II, your final paper will ultimately be in the form of an essay. Yes, there is research involved, but this paper will still be written the same way any other essay or article is written: you will go through the phases of prewriting, drafting, rewriting, and editing, as always. You will be concerned with issues of purpose, audience and rhetorical strategy. However, research adds another dimension to the discovery process.
I want your research to be the method you use throughout your discovery/writing process—as a way to see what’s out there in the universe; as a way to figure out what fascinates you; as a way to discover what you want to say; and most importantly, as a way to dialogue with scholars across time and geography.
Choose a topic that you are passionate about, something that delights or infuriates you, or perhaps explore a question that has been gnawing at you for some time. I’m also urging you to choose a topic you do not already know much about.
Local topics can be the most rewarding; please take advantage of the unique access we have to local archives and libraries and explore your topic from a local perspective if you can.
Make this project a genuine quest.
This kind of research has been known to lead students in academic or personal directions they never thought possible—all because they were able to discover something new through their own, or their classmate’s, research.
Thesis: A strong thesis is one that takes a risk, one that articulates an opinion, takes a stand, ventures a hypothesis, exposes something hidden that folks really ought to see–an idea worth struggling at for hours to express well and develop thoroughly. A good thesis holds significance for both the writer and the potential readers.
Here is how a top-level English 102 research paper could be described in terms of development, organization, style/voice, and mechanics:
Development: This paper has a clear thesis and keeps its focus throughout. Its points and observations are developed with a variety of concrete details, including specific facts, observations, quotes, incidents, statistics, stories, and so on. The development is appropriate to the paper’s audience and purpose. It shows excellent synthesis and coordination of a variety of information sources, including, if possible or applicable, material from books, professional journals, the Internet, databases, personal experience, and field research. The information presented is credible, current, accurate, comprehensive, and clearly relevant to the thesis. The paper’s title is interesting and appropriate to the topic.
Organization: The paper is well-organized in a way that makes sense for its audience and purpose. The reader is guided logically through significant points and able to understand how any passage relates to the whole. The arrangement of sub-topics clearly supports and enhances the paper’s thesis. Transitions are smooth; the paper’s movement between topics is never confusing, abrupt, repetitive, or forced. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Style/Voice: The paper is presented in the student’s own academic style appropriate to the audience and purpose. The paper’s sentences, phrases, and word choices are clear and engaging. Quotation and paraphrase from sources blend together well. The paper’s style and voice remain consistent throughout, and never get “taken over” by the style of source material.
Mechanics: Paper should exhibit complete control of basic conventions such as sentence structure, phrasing, punctuation, and spelling. All material used from sources is cited appropriately with in-text parenthetical citations in current Modern Language Association (MLA) style, or the appropriate style for the academic field of the subject matter, and the Works Cited is formatted according to MLA (or APA) style. The paper is double-spaced, has a title, your name, date and formatted correctly in MLA style.
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