Your topic paper will be evaluated according to the extent to which it addresses the points outlined below. Your topic paper should begin the process of fleshing out your topic, defining its scope and parameters and proposing the kinds of information you might use to approach the topic. The topic paper should answer the following questions:
1. What is the BIG question you hope to answer? All good papers are organized around a question, and it is best to formulate this question as early as possible. You can always refine this question as you do the research.
2. Why is this question interesting and important? In other words, what will we gain from your exploration of this question?
3. How will your approach shed new light on this issue? How has other research treated this issue (you may not know this yet)?
4. How will you approach this issue? What obstacles might you face as you attempt to answer the BIG question?
You do not need to write this topic paper in standard paper format. A series of headed paragraphs or bullets will also get the job done. Please also include any bibliography or other source material you might use. Use this paper as an opportunity to explore the literature, etc. that already exists. Include any bibliography that you already have.
Please make an appointment to see me if you are unclear about any of this, and/or you would like to discuss potential topics.
One of the most important parts of any good paper is the beginning. This piece lays out the broader context, gets the reader interested, and tells the reader what you are going to do in the paper. The following is the format I try to adhere to when I write a paper. You do not have to follow this order strictly, but you should include all of the following pieces.
1st paragraph: This paragraph should lay out the larger context or field that your topic fits into. You might want to include a broad question that frames your particular argument, such as “In an era of declining real wages, what strategies do families have for taking care of household and economic responsibilities.” This paragraph should draw your reader in, make him/her want to read on.
2nd paragraph: The second paragraph should lay out your purpose. In the context of the larger field you’ve just laid out in paragraph #1, what specifically do you set out to accomplish in this paper. It is perfectly fine, especially in a first version, to include a sentence that begins, “The purpose of this paper is . . .” You must tell the reader very clearly what you intend to do.
3rd paragraph: This paragraph should communicate your argument to the reader. What specifically, are you attempting to show or prove. You might also tell the reader what sort of evidence you will use to prove/argue it. There should be a sentence that says either, “In this paper I argue. . .,” or “Using statistical analysis of the Characteristics of Business Owners Survey, I argue that. . .”
4th paragraph: This is what I call the “roadmap” paragraph. Once you have clearly stated your purpose and argument, you must give your reader a guide of what to expect in the following pages. Something like, “First I will discuss the history of welfare-to-work strategies in the US, then I will lay out the implications of TANF, then I will explore the ways in which various states have implemented variations on welfare-to-work policy, then I will provide policy recommendations.” This helps prepare your reader for what is to come and to give him/her a sense of what to expect. The roadmap sets the stage for the rest of the paper.
The final version of your paper should reflect the best work you can do on this topic. It will be graded according to the following:
· argument is sound and backed up with data
· author does what s/he says s/he will do in 1st 4 paragraphs
· paper is well organized and clearly written
· author has conducted sufficient research
· Checked for grammar and spelling
· 12 point font
· approximately 15-20 pages
· proper execution of 1st four paragraphs
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