Paper 5: Final Research Paper

Paper 5: Final Research Paper

This final paper serves as the culmination of all the writing you’ve done this semester. Throughout the course, we’ve discussed the importance of crafting a specific, arguable thesis with a clear motive – in other words, a claim that answers a significant question or addresses an important problem about an issue or concept. We’ve also talked about how to use evidence in order to support your position, finding reputable sources and then quoting or paraphrasing them (with proper citation) in order to lend credibility and nuance to your own argument. Finally, we’ve discussed the principles of essay structure, and the fact that all papers, to make their cases as convincing as possible, should follow a clear, logical organization in which each paragraph not only connects to the thesis in some way, but also builds upon the paragraph it follows. All of these elements of academic writing are essential to crafting an effective argument, and you will be drawing upon all of them for this final paper.

For this assignment, you will write an argumentative research paper in which you attempt to answer a significant question about a genuine problem or issue. Your aim, as it was in previous papers, is to persuade your readers (an interested, intelligent academic audience) of your position, using secondary sources in order to lend support to your argument. Indeed, in order to convince your readers, you must demonstrate that you know your topic well, and that you’ve crafted your own position after carefully considering what others are saying about the issue. Thus, you will need to do extensive research on your topic, and incorporate the sources you find into your argument (and cite them).

How to Choose a Topic

The choice of topic, or the question you want to answer, is entirely up to you, though some choices will yield better essays than others. While you want to choose a topic that speaks to your interests, you also want to make sure to choose something that will lead you to a specific, arguable position that you can support in the space available to you.

When considering the analytical question you would like your essay to answer, make sure to come up with something that will allow you to meet the goals listed above. For example, “how many states are in the United States?” is a poor question, because its answer is simply a matter of record with which you cannot argue. The essay would be finished after a single sentence. A better (read: more specific and arguable) question would be something like the following: “how has Idaho attempted to improve its public education system in the last decade, and what further steps need to be taken in order to generate continued improvement?” This question will yield a specific, arguable thesis, and you should be able to find several reputable sources to support it.

Whatever question you decide to answer, just make sure that it is complex enough to lead you to a specific, arguable position, but not so broad that you would need 50 pages in order to support it. Make sure, then, that yours is a focused question that yields an answer that isn’t obvious.

A note on controversial topics: For this assignment, you are welcome to write an essay about any topic you choose, provided that it advances an arguable position that you can support with evidence and analysis. That said, I would strongly discourage you from choosing a topic at the center of intense, polarizing political debate. These kinds of topics – abortion, immigration, religious belief, gun control – are very difficult to separate from our own biases, and thus it’s very hard to write about them objectively. Too, it’s difficult to find sources that aren’t intensely biased by political belief, and so you may have trouble in your research if you choose them. This isn’t to say that you can’t write a paper on a hot-button issue – protest movements on college campuses, whether or not college athletes should be paid, the importance of the liberal arts to a university education, etc. – but only to note that you need to pick a topic that won’t lead to a one-sided thesis that ignores or demonizes alternative positions, and that won’t make it more difficult to conduct your research. If you have any questions about whether or not your intended topic is appropriate, please feel free to ask.

Use of Sources

In order to make a specific, convincing argument for this assignment, you will need to draw upon 5 sources. These sources should be relevant to your argument and published in reputable venues, by authors who are qualified to discuss the issue. You can use them in a variety of ways – as background on an issue or debate, as support for your own position, or as a counterargument to your position that you intend to rebut, just to name a few. Just make sure that you use all 5 sources in your essay, and that you cite them in the text (parenthetically) and in your works cited list.


Because this is the most complex, ambitious essay you will complete for our class, it is important for you to get as much support for it as possible. In addition to our library research session and in-class peer review, I will also be holding mandatory 15-minute conferences with each of you, during which you can ask me any questions you might have about your paper. These conferences are an opportunity for you to receive detailed feedback on your work in progress well before the paper’s due date, and will be held during Week 15 (Nov. 30 – Dec. 4). We will not have class during that week in order to make time for the conferences, and to give you the necessary time to work on your research and a draft of the paper.

Formal Requirements

Papers should be 6-8 full pages long (no less, and not significantly more), typed in 12-point, Times New Roman font, and double-spaced. All papers must include a list of works cited, and all in-text citations should be provided in MLA format.

Due Date

All papers must be submitted to Moodle by 12pm (noon) on Monday, December 14.

*No late papers will be accepted.

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