Research and Writing Assignment 1

Honors English 298
Washington State University
Delahoyde — Fall 2014

The Research Essay Project

Professional writers insist that “the aim of a research project is to make new knowledge, not to reproduce old knowledge” (Hunt, Riverside Guide 424). This last major writing assignment of the semester requires that you focus on an idea, theory, or interpretation that you have, and this time to consider also the written ideas of others who have explored, perhaps in a different direction, the same or a similar subject. Focus on or continue onwards with the topic of your first research essay, or start fresh with a new subject with which you can zero in on some other unusual primary sources. Draw from secondary sources only as they help contextualize or further your own work. The project cannot serve as a report on information derived from secondary sources; such a piece yields only a “mass of data that says nothing” (419). Instead, you will explore an original idea you have; use supporting information only to validate your points and help build your own interpretation.

The Assignment: Think critically and analytically about a cultural phenomenon. Your essay must serve as an analysis of a topic, not an argument concerning a supposed controversy. You must identify an original topic or idea, and avoid the hackneyed, pro/con, debate club, argumentative “issue” yielding a report crammed with factoids. Take advantage of the opportunity to tackle a subject that interests you obliquely instead of dutifully devoting yourself to a subject you are obliged to understand for your major or for another class. Fly with an original idea: an odd topic or cultural phenomenon you notice and upon which you could become the leading expert. I will supply some suggestions.

I will be helping you with the project at all stages of its development, from brainstorming to revising, through conferencing, class discussions, library visits, peer workshops, and consultations, so that by the time you are ready to submit the written piece and present your work to the class, I will be able to respond constructively because I will be aware of what you have been trying to accomplish.

The Topic Pre-Proposal
You will receive a hand-out in class to fill out. It asks you some crucial questions for your research pursuit as you begin generating ideas. This exercise will launch your project by having you formulate a direction right away, even if it is sketchy and tentative at this early stage. I will also be able to advise you early if your topic needs further refinement and if your thesis needs to be narrowed or made more explicit. I also may be able to supply you with some research leads.
Due Date: Friday, October 17th.

The Proposal
After you have begun the project, you may decide on a somewhat different angle for the research. But by this point, when you have a good idea of the nature of the topic, you should be ready to commit to a program of research and writing on your subject. At this time, you will turn in, as at least one full page of revised writing, a typed proposal describing the topic and purpose of your paper, the driving research questions, why your argument is worth making, your research status or plans, and the sources (primary, secondary, and tertiary) you have already identified.
Due Date: Monday, October 27th. [1 page.]

Outline & Annotated Works List
At a certain point in the process, you should have completed the majority of the research, have read your sources, and have thought through the project reasonably well. At this point you will turn in a rough outline of the paper and a typed, properly formatted, annotated Works list. The grade for this part of the assignment will be based on how well the outline demonstrates careful thinking on your part, how well you have tracked down valuable (appropriate and recent) resources, how correctly you have compiled the printed version of your Works list, and the quality of the annotations.
Due Date: Monday, November 10th. [2 pages.]

The Draft
A full rough draft of the essay will be due for peer editing and for your own careful polishing late in the process. The essay should be essentially complete, double-spaced, with one-inch margins (right margin ragged, not justified).
Due Date: Monday, November 17th.

The Revision
With the final version of your essay, you must turn in all significant freewriting, proposals, outlines, and drafts that went into the creation of the paper. I cannot accept a final essay for which I have seen no drafts in progress. I will be assuming that this final version of the essay is the best work you are capable of and as the culmination of a whole semester of intensive practice of writing skills. Thus, I will be looking for the following when I read, and using these evaluative criteria:

  • Does the paper have an effective introduction and an explicit and analytical (not a factual or opinionated) thesis statement?
  • Is the paper informative and interesting, written with consideration of a general educated reading audience in mind?
  • Are the collected resources integrated in such a way so as to advance the writer’s well-planned original thinking (or is there too much reporting of facts)?
  • Is the documentation style correct?
  • Is the writing stylistically effective and free of mechanics errors?

This final piece ought to give you a sense of tremendous satisfaction and certify you as an expert in some particular scholarly area!
Due Date: Friday, November 21st. [8-10 pages.]