Research Essay Requirements

In Unit 3, you will write a research essay. In this essay, you are asked to explore some aspect of culture: gender, identity, media, crime, art, music, or other cultural elements. You will then talk with a Pima librarian about your project and do some research related to the topic you choose.

Finally, you will write a paper that incorporates support from that research, along with your own insights and ideas.

The major elements of this assignment include research, documenting sources, and incorporating sources in the research essay.

Throughout this unit, we will focus on finding and evaluating sources, incorporating them into your writing, and properly documenting your research in MLA style. Along with your final essay, you will create an annotated bibliography of sources to demonstrate the logic behind your research choices.

Essay 3 – Research Essay
GoalsStepsRequirements and Evaluation
be aware of the components of argument and create your own arguments in conversation with other members of your discourse communitiesfocus on a specific rhetorical purposeacknowledge audience stakeholders and their positionsargue for and against positions to understand the scope and breadth of an argumentconduct and document researchexpress a working knowledge of key rhetorical features, such as audience, situation, and the use of appropriate argument strategiesChoose one of the topics presented below or propose your own.Conduct research.Identify your opinion on the topic (be sure to be critical of your own ideological biases).Prepare an annotated bibliography with your sourcesCreate an argument that examines the beliefs behind the topic you chose and a critique of how that belief supports or damages the community.Essay Specifications: 5+ pagesMLA format, including MLA-style in-text citations and a Works Cited listAt least 4 sources, 3 or more from databases of articles Annotated Bibliography: At least 6 sources, 4 or more from databases of articlesMLA formatfollow instructions for layout and contentprovide annotations that critically engage the text (not summaries of the abstract)Note: Submit this through Discussion 7B. Overall Evaluation: Use of rhetorical strategiesAwareness of audienceComprehension of key concepts – i.e. ideologyUse of sourcesOrganization & CoherenceAttention to grammar, punctuation & spelling.MLA-style citations

Essay Topic Prompts

  1. In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman describes a woman undergoing treatment for mental illness. Hillary Clinton’s speech “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” focuses on how laws treat people differently based on sex or gender. For this research topic, start with one of these texts and then explore a historical or political topic relating to gender or sexuality. You might look at gender roles, domestic distribution of work, gay conversion therapy, reproductive rights, maternity/paternity rights, childbirth, or sexual reassignment, or other issues related to sex or gender.
    Important Note: Select a limited, specific topic. You can limit your topic by geography (example: gender pay gap in Arizona), by historical era (example: “The Cult of Domesticity” in Gilman’s time); by issue (example: gender reassignment for young trans adults); or perspective (example: nontraditional gender expression allows for individual freedom). The more limited and specific your topic, the more successful you will be in both research and developing your paper in depth and detail.
  2. Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short story “In a Grove” reviews a crime from the perspectives of witnesses, investigators, victims, and perpetrators. In the end, the story does not clearly fill readers in on what really happens. For this topic, research an investigation into a crime, a cover-up, scandal, or other controversial occurrence. Your goal is not to reopen the case, but rather to perform a research-based media analysis of how the event was depicted and how accurately citizens really know what is going on. Examples might include O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Mumia Abu Jamal, George Zimmerman, or Leonard Peltier. Remember to focus on analyzing the way the crime was presented by the media.
    Important note: This prompt asks you to conduct a media analysis of the way the crime was covered by the media. Do not relay the events of the crime; instead, analyze the ways that the media covered it, including questions such as: What was omitted from coverage? What was highlighted? What was the overall bias? How did coverage shift through time? How did audiences respond? 
  3. In Corey Doctorow’s “Anda’s Game,” the title character learns a hard lesson about the real world from her involvement in the virtual world of a video game. For this prompt, research the intersection of our physical and digital lives. How are they intertwined? How does one affect the other? You might look at social media, dating apps, gaming, hacking, privacy, online friendships, or some other related topic.
    Important note: Keep your focus limited and specific. You can limit your scope by examining a specific online community (example: WoW or another gaming community, by considering a specific generation (example: online dating and baby boomers), by exploring a specific type of online usage (example: those who tweet all day long and the effect this has on work productivity).
  4. Some of the readings in the “Identity Shifts” strand of this course explore ways that crossing borders leads to cultural exchange and cultural change. For this topic, research a custom or practice in the US that began within a minority or immigrant population. You might look at music, art, holidays, fashion, and more. The custom can be from any immigrant or minority culture.
  5. In Paolo Bacigalupi’s story “The Gambler” the protagonist, Ong, must come to terms with the nature of American news media and the values of media consumers. Using “The Gambler” as a starting point, conduct research into a popular news story and the reactions of audiences. Examples might include Richard Nixon and Watergate, Hillary Clinton’s emails, climate change, the Edward Snowden leaks, or other news stories.

Keep your topic specific

When writing a longer paper, the temptation is to choose a broad topic, which gives the illusion that you’ll have plenty to write about. The opposite is actually true: the more specific and defined your focus is, the easier time you’ll have both with the research and with supporting and developing your points in ample detail. 

For example, do not write your paper about The History of Feminism. Instead, select a limited, specific topic, such as gender pay gap in the field of technology. Think of your paper as being a chapter in a book on the topic, rather than the entire book.

Annotated Bibliography

Before you begin writing the essay, you’ll create an annotated bibliography. This will also help you create the Works Cited list for your final paper.

Note: The Annotated Bibliography is submitted through Discussion 7B. It’s not included with your paper. Your paper will include a Works Cited list of only those sources you actually cite in the paper, and all the sources you cite in the paper.

See the Annotated Bibliography for more information about this assignment.

The best way to compile citations for your works cited is by using the citation tools located on the right side of the screen in most research databases. If you email yourself a source, you will get a .pdf of the source and a formatted citation. You will have to choose MLA from a drop down menu. Check out the links below for more on MLA 8 and documenting sources.

Resources for Citing Sources, MLA Style

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