Research Argument Essay

Purpose and Audience: This project is a thoroughly researched, thesis-driven, argumentative essay that demonstrates competence in both research and composition.  Your audience should be a specific group of people who are affected by and interested in your topic, but are neutral or slightly skeptical of your position.

Topic: The topic should be sparked by an item in the Spring Arbor archives, and your thesis should be the subject of current and past debate within an academic or professional community.  You must be able to research the topic in scholarly books, current, peer-reviewed periodicals, and online resources.  The topic should also be limited to a manageable focus such that the paper can adequately discuss every major aspect of the issue in detail and fairly consider the major opinions on the topic within a coherent essay.  The issue should be debatable on logical or factual grounds and should not rely heavily on matters of faith or mere preference.  While every potential topic will be somewhat controversial, it should not be inflammatory or offensive to a mature and intelligent readership.  Finally, your topic must be approved by me.

Content: This essay must be a thesis-driven argument that uses a variety of authoritative sources to defend a clear stance on a specific issue.  The essay’s title should be engaging and informative, and the essay should have an identifiable introduction, body, and conclusion.

  •  The Introduction should elicit the reader’s attention and provide necessary background information on the topic, should provide a focus for the paper, and should state a clear and precise thesis.  The introduction may be several paragraphs long.
  •  The Body of the essay should demonstrate a thorough understanding of the topic and its major parts.  It should employ sound reasoning as it defends the thesis through logical argumentation and presentation of sound evidence.  It should contain no material that is not directly relevant to the thesis.  Explanations should be detailed and coherent and should avoid vague or generalized assertions.  Examples, illustrations, and supporting detail should be used frequently and appropriately to demonstrate the validity of the thesis.  The essay should also present criticisms of the thesis fairly, and it should address such criticisms rationally and appropriately.  You may integrate any portion of your Summa and Annotated Bibliography into this essay.
  • The Conclusion should bring adequate closure to the paper.  While it should reemphasize the thesis, it should also avoid excessive repetition of previous points.

It might help you to look at this sample essay written by one of my former students.

Organization: This essay can be organized in a number of ways, but it should be organized in a manner that best fits the essay’s content.  Regardless of the particular organizational pattern chosen, the essay should employ effective rhetorical strategies, logical organization and progression of thought, clear and smooth transitions, and coherent and developed paragraphs.  At some point, the essay must address possible objections to its thesis, but the exact place of such rebuttal in the essay will depend on the organizational pattern chosen.

Sources: This essay must use and cite a minimum of nine (9) sources. It must use at least one (1) artifact, two (2) credible books, and three (3) recent, scholarly journal articles, but not more than three (3) websites. In addition, the essay may cite sources from other media such as newspaper articles, popular periodicals, government documents, published or private interviews, speeches, studies, surveys, etc. However, it should avoid relying on dictionaries or encyclopedias unless they provide information not available elsewhere, which is a highly unlikely situation. All quotations must be quoted exactly and attributed to the proper source. Quotations should be smoothly integrated into the paper and should also be explained adequately. The essay may not use more than three block quotations and may not use more than five hundred (500) total words (about than two double-spaced pages) of quoted material.

Documentation: MLA, Chicago, or APA citation must be used correctly and consistently throughout the essay and the works cited page.  Sources, both quotations and paraphrases, must be cited correctly in the text with parenthetical citations, and every in-text citation must give correct information.  The works cited page must be arranged alphabetically by authors’ last names and must give full bibliographic information for each source.  The works cited page should list only those works that are actually cited in the text, and every citation in the text must clearly refer to a citation on the works cited page.  Provide copies of each source (see below).

Technicalities: This essay must be at least ten (10) full pages long, but should not exceed thirteen (13) pages.  Do not use a title page.  The essay should be bound inside a 3-ring binder. The binder must be put together in this order and must contain the following materials (use dividers with the label titles in bold below):

  1. FINAL PAPER: Complete final paper with Works Cited page.
  2. PLANNING: Artifact Analysis, InterviewAcademic Journal Article Assignment, Summa Assignment, and Annotated Bibliography.
  3. DRAFTING: Peer-reviewed drafts; peer review sheets; any rough and/or revised drafts; any pre-writing or brainstorming.
  4. SOURCES: Copies of ALL sources used in your research paper (only include copies of the pages you actually use).  These sources should be arranged in the order in which the sources appear in your Works Cited page (alphabetical according to author), and the name of the source’s author should appear at the top of each page of copied material.  On these copies or clippings, highlight or underline the material you actually use in your essay.
  5. PREVIOUS PAPERS: The graded copies of your first two essays.

Further Directions and Warnings: Like your first two essays in this class, this essay should not be entirely derivative of your sources; rather, it should combine your own thinking and argumentation with that of outside sources.  The thesis should be your own, and sources should be used to support the thesis.  You should use sources primarily to provide factual information or to offer unique viewpoints and profound statements from specific authors.  In no case should you use sources as “padding” to make the essay longer.  Also, you should remember that the research process will take a considerable amount of time to complete because you will have to know as much as possible about the research topic.  If the essay demonstrates noticeable ignorance of important aspects of the topic, this may substantially lower the grade.  Therefore, you should not procrastinate in doing research for this project, as you will need to be familiar with all important aspects of the topic.  Finally, please note, I will not accept your research paper if I have not approved your topic and seen your work in progress (viz. an annotated bibliography and a rough draft).  You must produce a passing research paper in order to pass this course!