Research Essay Assignment

Research Essay: ENGL 1302  Assignment Description

For this project, you will write an essay of a minimum of 1500 words (approximately 6 pages) in which you build an argument on a topic in your major or field of study. You will use sources to support your argument.

In upper level courses and on the job, you will need to demonstrate your ability to “join the conversation” in your field.  In a medical field, you might be asked to recommend or implement the best possible treatment for an illness; in order to do this, you would need to be able to find, read, and understand the research from other scholars in the field, decide between the alternatives, and make an argument for your recommendation based on your research.  In papers like these, you will need to state a clear claim (or thesis) and back up your claim(s) with support.  Not only that, but you will need to address the larger scholarly conversation surrounding these topics.  You do not want to simply report what others are saying, but engage in a dialogue with them.

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I want to hear what YOU have to say. If I wanted to only read information from your sources, I would go read them. I want to hear YOUR voice and read YOUR argument.

Vital Questions:

  1. How is this topic still an “open question” within my field of study or career field? What are the controversies around this topic?
  2. Who are the key people, researchers, or figures in this argument? For example, an argument about the private exploration of space would need to reference Elon Musk.
  3. Who is my audience? Picture a person who you think might disagree with you on this issue, but whom you can still respect. This person is intelligent, generally aware of current and past events, and well-educated, but not a specialist in your field.
  4. How much background will my readers need? How much do I need to explain? You want to give them enough information, but you don’t want to insult them by assuming they’re entirely ignorant.
  5. What is the best evidence I have? What tactics will be most effective? Should I use a visual image or chart? What kind of facts, stories, or sources am I looking for? What emotion will this reader be susceptible to?

Minimum Content Requirements of the assignment:

  1. You must have strong claims throughout.

Your thesis must make a claim. Every topic sentence should make a claim.

  1. You must include a counterargument and rebuttal of that counterargument.

In other words, you must accurately and fairly present another side of the issue, without “giving up any ground.” One way to do this is to use key words such as “admittedly” or “however”:

Admittedly, there is evidence that highlighting a text can aid visibility for those with visual impairments. Highlighter can help readers who have Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI), or those who have trouble tracking a line of print. For these students, using a ruler or other line guide in conjunction with a highlighter can increase readability. However, the vast majority of readers do not benefit from highlighting a text.”

You may not conclude that “both sides are equally true” or say “Reader, you decide” (the reader will always decide, no matter what you say!). You must take a stand on one side or the other.

III.                You must use and cite FIVE (5) sources as evidence to support your claim. At least three (3) must be scholarly (peer-reviewed sources); they must all be reliable.

* All five CAN be scholarly sources, but three MUST be.

*You may use more than five sources, but any additional sources should be scholarly.

Every source must be used in the body of the paper as a quote, paraphrase, summary, chart, or image AND you must properly cite the source on the last page, which should be a Works Cited page in MLA format. You should synthesize your sources; do not simply summarize all of your source material, but show how they are connected and respond to them.

  1. Please review the rubric at the end of this document to understand how the essay will be graded.


Minimum Requirements. Essay Plan:

  • Length: one page (handwritten) or 250 words, typed.
  • Style: informal, but readable.
  • Must demonstrate thought and effort toward the goal of producing the first draft of the essay.

Minimum Requirements. Peer Review:

  • Length: will provide answers in complete sentences to peer review guide provided.
  • Style: Guide will be provided.
  • *You must submit your own draft for peer review in order to get credit for reviewing others.
  • Must demonstrate thought and effort toward the goal of helping colleagues revise the first draft of the essay. Must note specific areas of the essay for improvement with plans for that improvement.

Minimum Requirements. First Draft & Final Draft:

  • Length: First Draft 1000 words (minimum), Final draft 1500 words (minimum). Word count does not include the Works Cited page, which is also required.
  • Style: Essay needs to conform to MLA standards, including double spacing in Times New Roman font.
  • Must use five sources. The essay must include a Works Cited page with correct in-text (parenthetical) citations for all quotes, paraphrases, and/or summaries. If using an image, you should properly caption and reference the image in MLA format.
  • Sources: Five (5) sources minimum, three (3) of these must be scholarly.

If your topic is so recent that a scholarly source cannot be found, please 1. ask a librarian and 2. consult with the professor.





If your paper is short of the word count, you cannot earn higher than 60%.

 If your paper has fewer than five sources, you cannot earn higher than 60%.


Points Possible: see syllabus for breakdown.

Purpose and Learning Objectives

Each essay should: develop ideas and synthesize sources within focused academic arguments; analyze, interpret, and evaluate a variety of texts for the ethical and logical uses of evidence; write in a style that clearly communicates meaning, builds credibility, and inspires belief or action; apply the conventions of style manuals for specific academic disciplines (MLA).

Process of Completion

  1. Choose a topic within your field of study.
  2. Answer the “Vital Questions” on page one of this guide.
  3. Complete any prewriting exercises provided.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the library resources:

  1. Write the Essay Plan.
  2. Begin researching the Richland databases to find sources to support your argument. You may find critics who argue the same or a similar position as yourself, or you may find those who support your counterargument. When researching, try using different search words (synonyms) to help you find more sources. Academic Search Complete is the best database to begin your research. Start here and click “Databases” to find Academic Search Complete:
  3. Carry out your Essay Plan: work on collecting sources (if needed), using those sources ethically, organizing your essay, and writing the first draft.
  4. Check your first draft against the content requirements in this guide: claims, counterargument and rebuttal; your thesis makes a claim, you use and cite your sourcse correctly.
  5. *Extra Credit: send your first draft to the Writing Center or English Corner!
  6. Submit the first draft by the due date.
  7. Participate in Peer Review.
  8. Using the feedback you received from Peer Review and from the instructor as a guide, make revisions to your essay.
  9. *Extra Credit: send your final draft to the Writing Center or English Corner! You might have to plan ahead & revise a little early in order to make this work.
  10. Review your Safe Assign report for plagiarism when you turn in your final draft!
  11. Reread your essay one last time and make any final edits or changes before turning in your final!
  12. Reflect on the process of writing and revising.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Plagiarism includes failing to cite a direct quote with quotation marks and an in-text citation, borrowing someone else’s work without a correct citation, bad paraphrasing (Safe Assign will not identify a good or fair paraphrase), purchasing a paper, having someone else write your essay, or turning in the same paper to two different classes. Any paper with plagiarism, even accidental (I forgot to cite that!), will receive a zero as a final grade. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to take good notes and cite correctly. Ask your instructor, the Writing Center, the English Corner, or a librarian for help, or visit the Purdue OWL for some of the best advice online.

Grading and Rubric

The rubric below will be used to grade the first and final drafts of your essays. If your paper is short of the word count, you cannot earn higher than 60%. If your paper has fewer than five sources, you cannot earn higher than 60%.

  Poor Average Excellent
Rhetorical Situation

(Purpose & Audience)

Essay demonstrates barely any understanding of purpose and audience. Essay demonstrates moderate understanding of purpose and audience. Essay meets the expectations of the audience and demonstrates a clear purpose for writing.
Thesis Statement (claim) Essay lacks a thesis statement. Thesis statement doesn’t make a strong claim, doesn’t contain tension, or is otherwise underdeveloped. Essay has a clear topic idea that is written in a concise thesis statement. Thesis contains tension and is well developed.
Paragraph Development Generally, paragraphs lack development and focus. Most paragraphs are developed, but some may lack development or focus. Each paragraph is well developed and focused. All body paragraphs contain a topic sentence, evidence supporting the thesis statement, and clear analysis.
Organization: Structure of Argument Essay lacks essential paragraphs, and/or the body paragraphs are confusingly organized. Paragraphs do not begin with claims. Some paragraphs may be misplaced or lack logical order. Some paragraphs may begin with claims, but overall structure is unclear. Essay follows a logical organization. The body paragraphs flow well. Paragraphs begin with claims; these paragraph claims work together to form an overall argument.
Introduction and Conclusion The introductory and concluding paragraphs need significant development. Essay has introductory and concluding paragraphs, but they do not provide enough essential information about context or relevance. Essay has interesting and informative introductory and concluding paragraphs that show the relevance of the claims.
Mechanics & Formatting Mistakes in grammar and punctuation often make the essay difficult to understand. Page numbers, header, spacing, font, and title may be missing or need significant correction. Essay has several mistakes in grammar and punctuation that sometimes hinder meaning. Page numbers, header, spacing, font, and title are not all present or need editing. Essay shows firm grasp of standard grammar and punctuation. Page numbers, header, spacing, font, and title are correct (MLA format).
Language/Word Choices Inappropriate word choices often make the essay difficult to understand. Essay occasionally has the wrong word or form of the word but is generally understandable. Essay uses appropriate word choices.
Coherence (Transitions) The essay is not coherent between paragraphs or between sentences. Fails to use repetition of subjects, parallel phrasing, or transition words effectively for coherence. The essay has some coherence between paragraphs and between sentences. May use repetition of subjects, parallel phrasing, or transition words at times. The essay has strong coherence between paragraphs and between sentences. Uses repetition of subjects, parallel phrasing, and transition words with skill.
Sources: Integration of Evidence

& MLA formatting

Evidence from outside sources does not seem to fit with the rest of the essay. There are several quotations not integrated into sentences.

Parenthetical citations are lacking or incorrect; Works Cited page may be missing.

Evidence from outside sources is not carefully integrated into the essay. Quotes are incorporated into sentences, but they are sometime awkwardly integrated.  Parenthetical citations are mostly correct; Works Cited page is included. Evidence from outside sources fits seamlessly into the essay. All quotes are integrated into sentences.

Parenthetical Citations are correct; Works Cited page is included and correct in format.


& Rebuttal

Counterargument and/or Rebuttal are unfair, missing, ineffective, or need significant development. Counterargument is present, but not entirely fair or accurate. Rebuttal does not address Counterargument effectively. Counterargument is fair and accurate. Rebuttal directly addresses the Counterargument and is effective and persuasive.


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