Minimum of 5 pages double-spaced, Times New Roman font, titled and paginated.
The primary purpose of this paper is to show the evolution of your thoughts on a topic, to allow your position on the topic to be shaped, deepened or expanded by your research. Start with a difficult and important question and use both written sources and personal exploration (experimentation and/or interviews with experts) to find an answer.
Use the library’s research databases to find articles on your topic. Find articles which are informative in additions to ones that argue a certain perspective on the topic. Try to find articles from a variety of angles. Have at least five written sources.
Also research your topic by doing interviews and/or experiments. Examples:
-A student who is exploring the public perception of cops is going on a police ride-along.
-A student who is exploring the legalization of prostitution is going to interview a vice cop who enforces prostitution laws.
-A student who is exploring homelessness is going to dress homeless and panhandle for a few hours.
-A student who is exploring healthcare reform interviewed an insurance company customer-assistance representative.
-A student who is exploring corn subsidies is keeping track of all the corn derivatives she eats on a daily basis.
Recommended Format (Depending on your topic and the results of your research it may be a strong choice to change the order of the items listed below, but I would caution against leaving out too much of the content listed below.)
Start with a scene that leads into your question. Here are the elements of scene:
-Include the who, what, when, and where.
-Show, don’t tell.
-Use sensory details.
After stating your question it may be useful to do the following:
-Give the reader a sense of the importance of the topic.
-Give some context to the issue, perhaps a brief history.
-State what your position on the topic was before doing your research.
Next, begin discussing your academic research. Remember to:
-Use sources that represent different perspectives on the topic.
-Prioritize your sources: use more often the sources that are the most informative, intelligent, or emblematic of popular positions on the topic.
-Don’t simply summarize sources, but evaluate and question them. Where do you agree with them? On what points do you disagree? Why? Is their argument logical? Defensible? Is your response?
-Integrate points you agree with to form your perhaps new, definitely more informed and nuanced position on the topic.
Integrate your interview(s) and/or experiment(s).
-If your interview(s) and/or experiment(s) had a strong impact on your thinking then it might be a good strategy to use them as the climax or turning point of your exploration on the topic, like Michael Pollan did in An Animal’s Place, who uses visiting Polyface Farm as the turning point in his exploration of animal rights.
-If the results had a less profound effect on your thinking then it might be wise to integrate the results topically in with the results of your academic research.
-You must also make a choice about whether or not to show your personal exploration in scene. A good rule of thumb being if it was interesting and/or important to your results, then show it in scene.
Finally, be sure to make your final position on the topic, and your reasoning behind this position, clear. It may be a good idea to summarize and restate it in your conclusion. Your final position should be informed (supported by your research findings), and well thought out (question your sources’, as well as your own, prejudices).