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Social Issues & Activism: Research Paper Assignment

Kimberly Braasch

Research Paper

Research Paper – EWRT 02 – Spring 2018

As this course emphasized the roles of self and society, this position paper will focus on a cresting or future-forward social issue that affects you. You’ll take a stand on this issue, present your researched findings, then either propose a solution or demonstrate how an individual can effect positive change in the matter. The paper will incorporate both critical and creative thinking in response to the issue.  

Rule #1: Minimum of 5 focused knowledge sources. These primary sources must offer in-depth detailed information. At least two of these five sources must have been published in print. You may use the online version, but they need to have also appeared in hard-copy, whether that’s an article in a newspaper, news-oriented magazine, journal, book chapter, government document, etc.

Rule #2: Wikipedia, encyclopedias, and general information sources are preliminary working knowledge sources. They may be used in your paper but do not count toward your five focused sources--neither does an article from which you only borrow one statistic. Your Works Cited page will document all sources parenthetically cited in the paper and omit sources you read but did not use.

Rule #3: Your focus is on working with professional resources so no blogs, vlogs, or social media sources unless you first clear them with me. Editorials, opinion pieces, and syndicated columns are allowed only if your paper addresses their bias. Videoconferences such as TED talks and credible audio podcasts are acceptable if led by professionals, while YouTube videos are generally not.

Rule #4: Use the sources, don’t let them use you. Your ideas and interpretations are the most important part of this paper. Do not write a paper that strings together a bunch of facts without sufficient interpretation and analysis from you. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to not only help you focus on your point of view about the issue, but to help you evaluate long, dense articles you find about your topic. Remain inquiry-driven throughout the process; keep asking questions to figure out the paper’s direction and which sources provide the strongest support.

Rule #5: In addition to the above, you must incorporate at least one visual source, such as a political cartoon, satirical art, photograph, drawing, etc. that adds to the creative aspect of your paper as well as providing soft evidential support for your thesis.  

General breakdown of paper (averaging 150-175 w/par = 275 w/p = 1600-1800 w/rp)

1: Introduction to the topic, starting broad and narrowing down to your argumentative thesis statement. No first person in essay, but consider beginning with a narrative, whether that’s based on personal experience, taken from your research, or creative (an imaginary someone facing the issue you’re writing about).


2: Background info about the topic to help your reader understand why you feel this issue is so important and to explain why you’ve taken the position you have. Think ETHOS: show that you’re a believable writer who, based on the reasoning provided in this paragraph, will examine the topic in a credible manner. Note: This paragraph could be assimilated into the introduction if you don’t go the personal narrative route.  


3-4: Present detailed evidence to clarify and support the issue you’re tackling. Think LOGOS: make a logical and persuasive case. Unlike previous essays, incorporate fewer half-sentence quotations and aim for paraphrasing larger chunks of evidence. Always go for more rather than not enough, but don’t let the evidence overwhelm your voice in the paper. This paper is designed to show how well you understand the topic, not how well you can copy and paste what others have written. (You may need three paragraphs for this segment of the paper, depending on your topic.)


5-6: One paragraph to anticipate and present opposition plus a second paragraph to refute opposing arguments in regard to this social platform. Look for legitimate sources -- don’t simply rebut sarcastic trolls on Web sites – and document them. Don’t hold back on presenting possibly multiple opposing or alternate point of views you’ve uncovered in your research. You don’t need to shred the opposition, but you need to do more than acknowledge it – thoroughly deflect it and defend your position.


7-8: Now it’s time to present strategy and options and tools: How can one individual who’s not in a position of power, or blessed with disposable income, or the leader of a band of plucky do-good rebels spearhead change? This is where the creative and critical parts of the essay converge as you show your determination and offer your reader a blueprint for success in supporting positive change for this social platform. Strive to go beyond the obvious steps (e.g., vote in elections, sign a petition posted on a social media site, etc.). Expand your options by working with Applying-level questions from Bloom’s pyramid as well as researching other social platforms for possible analogies (How did #IceBucket Challenge begin trending?) Also consider creative scenarios that are grounded by logical premises (e.g., if you could convince backers to finance a _____, then monies from selling tickets to that event could be used to ____, which, in turn, could support the next step of your plan, which is __________.) 


9-10: Now you move into the world of prediction, probability, and hope. While acknowledging that change doesn’t happen overnight (although it’s coming rapidly due to the efforts of a few students from Parkland, FL), detail the types of results/justice/goals (small- and large-scale) you believe your work can achieve in the short and long run.


11: Present a truly compelling conclusion. Think PATHOS as you wind things down. Elevate the issue so it becomes larger than all the individual points you made in any of the body paragraphs. Consider a world in which this platform no longer needs protecting or attacking. Say no, to restating the same points or summarizing the obvious. Say, yes, to leaving a lasting impression and making the reader glad he or she has come along with you on this journey.



Practically Perfect Body Paragraph (10 to 14 sentences)

1          Topic sentence/main claim in paragraph

1          Transition from claim to supporting material

1-2      Lead-in & evidence (QPS, logical reasoning, known facts, observation, etc.)

2-3      Analysis of evidence

1          Transition to supporting material

1-2      Lead-in & evidence (QPS, logical reasoning, known facts, observation, etc.)

2-3      Analysis of evidence

1          Round-off to tie back to topic sentence; sums up the “because” part of paragraph


You can mix up the order by offering both pieces of evidence together, followed by one long analysis, but other than that, follow this structure. Note these main points: 1) don’t begin a paragraph with a lead-in to your evidence. 2) always transition from one piece of evidence to the next, 3) offer analysis twice as long as evidence, 4) don’t let the paragraph end midair without tying it back to the main idea.