English 1102, Spring 2020
This research project will help you develop the research, writing, and documentation skills that you will need to be successful in the remainder of your classes here at Georgia State University. Indeed, analyzing your sources to determine their intended audience and overall credibility will help you develop valuable skills you will employ for the remainder of your life, for many of the reports we encounter about politics or everyday events require careful consideration to determine their trustworthiness and the potential biases of the presenters. In addition, this project will give you practice at creating a sustained argument and incorporating the ideas of others gracefully as support in your own writing (the value of this skill cannot be overstated; perhaps the most significant marker of sophisticated, college-level writing is the ability to incorporate supporting details persuasively within your own arguments). Finally, you will become more aware of the discipline-specific formatting rules that writers are expected to follow in order to be counted as a credible speaker within a particular discourse community.
You will compose a five-page research essay incorporating the secondary sources you gathered for your annotated bibliography (look at four pages as the absolute floor, and maybe seven pages or so as the upper limit). The paper should synthesize at least four sources (the number required in your annotated bibliography) in support of a compelling thesis, though you can use as many sources as you find appropriate. I want you to vary the ways that you incorporate your sources, citing simple facts and statistics where appropriate but also including several quotes appropriately set up with signal phrases. Information about this assignment and examples of student work can be found in the assigned readings from the Guide to First-Year Writing. You are free to use either MLA or APA style, and I will be describing both to you in video lectures and other learning materials, but you will need to follow your chosen style precisely throughout your project—no mixtures of the two! In fact, although I am forgiving of formatting issues in 1101, by 1102 I believe students should be able to create precisely formatted essays. Luckily, you will have a chance to revise the first draft of your research essay into the final version, which will give you plenty of time to learn proper formatting rules.
Your first job, of course, will be to locate a topic that interests you that you can create a compelling argument about in such a brief space. It does not need to be “academic,” so try to use the latitude I am providing you to find something that you will enjoy discussing—at least as much as possible in an academic setting. It can be about some hobby or other activity meaningful to you (like, say, the required nutrition for cats, the special qualities of tube guitar amps, or the contributions made by Nintendo in the development of contemporary video games), or maybe politics (like racial disparities in policing or healthcare, the accomplishments of the Black Lives Matter movement, or the necessity of electing a particular candidate for president in the fall), or even pop culture (like the role of 80s Swedish pop in the construction of the current K-pop sound, or why Nas’ debut album Illmatic is the greatest hip hop album of all time). Once you have a topic, turn it into an argumentative thesis to make sure that it will work for this project (almost anything can be made into an argumentative thesis—there will be a discussion post for you to present this to me, then I will help you sharpen your thesis statement there, and you can also text or email). You will recognize an appropriate thesis statement because it will be something that someone could potentially disagree with and argue against, and this essay, to fit the learning outcomes for the course, must be argumentative.
Next, you will begin researching and locating appropriate sources about your topic. As the annotated bibliography handout explains, I want you to find the most credible and appropriate sources for your argument. These will sometimes be scholarly sources, but depending on your topic they won’t necessarily be. For example, an argument about the role of scent in human mate selection would definitely incorporate very useful and informative scholarly sources, but an argument about the accomplishments of Black Lives Matter would use sources like The New York Times or even more focused and compelling voices coming out of the movement itself. Your job is to look a source’s publisher and other characteristics (clunky formatting, misspelled words, grammatical issues, faulty citations, advertisements, commercial interests, etc.) and determine whether or not it appears credible to your reader. This can be really tricky sometimes. On the subject of cat nutrition (an obsession of mine, as you’d know if we were meeting in person), the best site on the web, Catinfo.org, has a clunky, outdated design reminiscent of late 90s and early 00s websites, yet the content is impeccably curated and 100% accurate. However, a person with less knowledge of the subject might be drawn to CatFoodDB (at catfooddb.com) instead because the website is beautifully formatted and crisply professional-looking, yet the site is littered with inaccuracies and sometimes even outright falsehoods (a clue might be the advertisements on the latter, which let the viewer know that they monetize visitors by earning a share of click-throughs to purchase the various cat food brands described on the site). You will have to browse and try to learn some of this on your own since we can’t sit in the classroom and visit a lot of websites together, but I will talk more in a video lecture and will also be commenting on the sources that you post on the discussion board about sources in week three.
Next, you should sketch out a simple outline to guide your writing, then write your first draft. I will talk about outlining your essay in a video lecture in week four. Outlines really do help! The essay is relatively brief, but five pages is enough space for a compelling introduction (more on this in week four!), several solid supporting paragraphs, and an effective conclusion, and I definitely want you to create an effectively-organized discussion of your topic.
Here’s a simple checklist to guide you in your writing:
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