4341 Semester Research Project

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4341 Semester Project

DUE DATE: 24 hrs before your conference


You have gathered and annotated sources on your research question. Now you will write (in Google Docs) a research paper of about 2000-2500 words (with a Works Cited in MLA 2009 format + a 125-word abstract) that makes an sound argument about your findings. You will make and support your own well-grounded claims and try to push the conversation on your research question in the direction you contend it should go. In other words, you have posed a question, tried to answer it, and now what?

Your paper should pose a genuine research question; examine the conversation on that question; and make an argument, supported by evidence, that advances the conversation in a particular direction. You’ve already outlined this plan for me in the Research Proposal, and your annotated bibliography required you to summarize at least eight sources related to your subject, but your final paper will likely cite more sources than the eight in your bibliography.

You may do this assignment in a non-traditional way; that is, so long as your project meets all of the intellectual goals for “the research paper,” you are free to choose to do it in some other way–one that involves multimodal composing, or other written forms besides “the research paper” (e.g, Platonic dialogue, epistolary, etc.). See me for approval.


The following advice assumes a traditional paper as the genre. This advice applies to other genres, though it will have to be modified slightly to fit them.

  • To synthesize sources, you will develop your annotations into essayistic prose. Synthesis groups sources into meaningful idea-based relationships. It allows you (and a reader) to see the “big picture” in a complex conversation. We’ll talk a lot about the wedding table idea. Don’t dismiss this part of the process.
  • Synthesis is not a mere report that “X argues A” while “Y argues B” or that Professor A and Professor B both claim something. Rather, synthesis groups the “voices in the conversation” into meaningful structures and makes knowledge.
  • You should also have a clear handle on your own claims, support, and warrants. You are arguing, too.
  • Remember that your views and ideas might shift as you move from annotated bibliography to writing the paper. That’s OK. That’s what inquiry involves. That’s what distinguishes inquiry from simple ammunition-gathering.
  • Use the CARS, “Create a Research Space,” guide to research paper introductions.
  • Voice: there’s no reason why a research paper has to read as if it were written by a bureaucratic committee or a robot.


The following items assume a traditional paper as the genre. These items apply to other genres, though they will have to be modified slightly to fit those genres.

  • About 2000-2500 words
  • Engaging, precise title
  • Works Cited or References (alphabetical)
  • Headings for Introduction, Methodology, and Conclusion, and also for each major section of the paper (hint: emulate and adapt the headings in well-written scholarly articles)
  • Non-ridiculous font and margin
  • -10 points for every dropped quote. Dropped quotes must die. Really. Because dropped quotes are so disorienting and confusing for readers, yet are fixed so easily, I will deduct 10 points from your grade for each dropped quote in your paper.


The following items assume a traditional paper as the genre. These items apply to other genres, though they will have to be modified slightly to fit those genres.

  • Does the paper meet all of the “nuts and bolts” expectations?
  • How well does the paper’s introduction work like the trailer for a movie? That is, how well does it promise a clear payoff for the reader’s time and attention and give a roadmap to the rest of the paper? Does it use the CARS model?
  • How successfully does the paper provide a focused yet comprehensive “conversation” on the writer’s research question?
  • Does the paper advance a clear, persuasive claim, then support that claim throughout the paper using sound arguments (claim, support, bridges)?
  • Does the paper use substantive, authoritative sources? How fully and fairly does the paper deal with sources’ arguments? Does the writer avoid simplistic hero/punching-bag dichotomies?
  • Does the paper successfully integrate sources into the writer’s own ideas?
  • Does the paper always make it crystal-clear whose words or ideas are whose?
  • Does the paper use in-text citations every time the writer borrows ideas or information from a source?
  • Does the paper show evidence of careful and ethical primary research? Does the paper explain the author’s research methodology, present the findings of that research, and acknowledge the limitations of the research? Does the author draw connections between his or her primary research and the published sources cited in the paper?
  • Does the conclusion work like the climax to a movie? So what? What’s the news? Now what? Where do we go from here?
  • Does the paper adhere to the conventions of standard written English (i.e., spelling, punctuation, grammar), and avoid the dreaded dropped quote?

NOTE: This assignment is adapted from an assignment designed by Dr. Drew Loewe at St. Edward’s University.