Getting Audience Attention

Research Paper Assignment Composition II Your argumentative research paper will answer a question that you pose midway through the semester.  The question you pose should be narrow, challenging, and grounded. It must lead to research, and its answer should be highly debatable among reasonable people.  Your audience: a panel of jurors.     Your purpose: to eloquently and professionally present a debatable topic with much evidence so that your audience will consider what you say.   Formatting: Eight-ten pages of text, plus an additional page or two of Works Cited.  No cover page. Follow MLA rules regarding citations and document formatting, including margins, font size and layout, All sources used for information, ideas, words, or images must be cited in the paper and on the works cited page using MLA standards. This means quotes, of course, but also IDEAS. Where did you get that piece of information? We need a citation both in the exact spot of your paper where you use it and on the works cited page. The sources: Eight-ten reputable sources must be used. Include at least one article from a peer-reviewed, professional journal that has been accessed from our school’s databases.   In general, your sources should be recent, nothing older than five years or so (historical documents are an exception to this rule; see me if you’re unsure).   The other sources must be quality, reliable sources that may be from the internet–choose from .edu, .gov, or .org. Be very discriminatory with your selections. Other sources may be books, interviews or other primary sources, and/or audio-visual sources like documentaries, TED Talks, or credible YouTube videos.  Include a variety of sources (e.g., online databases, journals, chapters of books, etc.).  You will be learning how to evaluate a source this semester, and part of the grade for your research paper will be the quality of your sources. Please include visuals in your research paper, though total visuals should not take up more than one page of the paper.  See the sample MLA paper on the MLA’s website to have an example of citation and explanation. Organizing Your Research Paper The research paper must contain all the usual parts of an academic essay: introductory paragraph(s), supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, within this structure, keep this in mind: You’ll be arguing a position in your research paper.  In order for readers to understand the context of your argument, they will need some background information on the issue.  This background information should be provided in the first one or two supporting paragraphs (i.e., paragraphs two and three) of your essay.  It should be introduced in a way that lets readers know that you’ll be discussing the background of the issue in this (these) paragraph(s) and not directly supporting your argument yet. For example, suppose that this were a thesis for a research paper:  New Jersey’s ban on smoking in privately owned businesses is a violation of individual freedoms and should be abolished. If this were the thesis, the topic sentence for the first supporting paragraph (i.e., paragraph two) might be as follows:  A good understanding of the recent history of this issue is needed to fully appreciate how detrimental it is to individual freedoms.  The rest of this paragraph (and possibly the next one, depending on how much background information you think is necessary) would provide a brief history of the issue so that readers will understand the context and can more fully appreciate the writer’s argument. Each remaining supporting paragraph should be aimed at supporting the position taken in the thesis sentence. Writing out these points as full sentences can make your research paper organized and simple to write. This step is key to a successful paper. In your research paper, at least two major counter arguments should be addressed and rebutted (it should be a counter argument or counter arguments that are well known about your issue).  It is up to you as to whether you want to address them in one section of your essay (i.e., in a one or more supporting paragraphs in a row, depending on how many good counter arguments there are for your issue) or as points of contrast in specific supporting paragraphs where you’ll be presenting your own arguments. Either way, you must be sure that when you present a counter argument, you deal with that argument.  You can deal with it by rebutting it directly with evidence you’ve gleaned from your research.  What if the counterargument is a legitimate point and you cannot directly refute it? In that case, acknowledge the legitimacy of the point (this makes you seem reasonable, thereby establishing your ethos), but quickly move on to assert that the majority of evidence supports your position despite the legitimacy of that one counterargument.   Content of Your Research Paper In academic essays, most of your support should be based on logic, facts, statistics, etc. (i.e., logos) Think of your audience as composed of those who disagree with you and those who are undecided about the issue.  Your goal is to convince these readers of the validity of your position and perhaps even change or help them make up their minds.  If you keep this in mind, you’ll avoid many mistakes (for example, adopting an insulting tone or not addressing opposing arguments). Third-person point of view should be used for the majority of your research paper.  Occasionally, you might incorporate first person to show your personal connection to the topic.     Section of Paper Topics Covered Introduction (page 1-1 ½ or 2 maximum) Good writers begin their writings in interesting ways.  Consider using any of these hooks for your first paragraph or two: a dramatic anecdote that illustrates the issue at hand, factual background information that startles (think statistics), popular assumptions about the issue addressed. Lead into a clear statement of the issue you’re researching and your opinion—the thesis.  The thesis should be the answer to the research paper question you drafted weeks ago. Then, include some basic, necessary background information on the topic. This background information section will take about two paragraphs.  Development of the thesis and the argument: the body of the paper (5-6 pages) After you’ve posed your thesis, you need to support it.  Let your reader know what others have already said about the issues.  Introduce experts and integrate your sources. An important note: all sources used on your works cited page must be used in the text of your research paper.  That means that any source listed on your works cited page must have at least one in-text citation to it in the paper.  Likewise, any source used in the paper must have a corresponding works cited page citation.  If not, there’s no reason for the source to be on your works cited page since it appears the source was not used.  Make sense? The first word or words used in each source’s works cited page citation should be included in parenthetical citations. Address your points.  Every thesis needs supportive points.  Here’s your chance to make or break your argument:Use topic sentences to begin body paragraphs.  Topic sentences keep us focused as readers and as writers.  Each paragraph should begin with a clear topic sentence.Transition between each paragraph.  See the text chapter on transitioning between points to make these moves smooth.  What are your reasons for believing what you believe? For each reason, what specific evidence did you find that you found convincing? Vary types of evidence.  Use a visual or two. Note that visuals, too, are cited both in the text and on the works cited page.   Though the counterargument doesn’t have to appear here, a convenient location for the counterargument section is just before your conclusion. The conclusion.  (1-1 ½ pages) Just like the introduction, your conclusion should leave a lasting impression.  At this point, hopefully, you have managed to sway your audience into agreeing with your argument.  Now, you need them to remember you and your argument. You want them to walk away from your writing and feel content, satisfied, full.  Think of answering any of these questions: What is the significance of your claim? What’s at stake for your audience? What might be other avenues for research? What might happen if the audience doesn’t act? What questions remain? How does your thesis resolve part of the problem? What parts remain unsolved? Also, consider reminding us of the paper’s hook from page 1. Referencing that again in a creative way could help the ending feel more satisfying and professional.  The works cited page (excluded from the minimum page requirements) Please ask for help from me and/or the Writing Lab tutors when you need with your citations or formatting.  To create your works cited page, follow MLA guidelines. Don’t forget to: Click on Insert, then Page Break to begin a new page. Title the page Works Cited (which gets centered) and then left align your entries. Alphabetize your entries on the works cited page by the first word. Do not indent the first for each entry, but do indent all other lines of that entry.   No bullets or numbering of sources please.

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