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Your final Research Paper for ENG 240 will propose and defend
a solution to a debatable problem. Unless arranged otherwise
with the instructor, assume that the audience of your paper is
your fellow students in the class. The purpose of the essay is to
persuade that audience that they should support your proposed
solution. We will work towards the Final Draft of the paper by
first identifying our preliminary thoughts on the topic, then
identifying relevant research sources, and then producing a
series of drafts of the final argument.
Schedule of Research paper assignments:
Select Topic (due Week 1 on threaded discussion): You should
begin by listing as many topic ideas as you can. The more ideas
you come up with for topics, the better your chances of coming
up with a good one that you will enjoy working on. The best
topics are ones that you have some personal interest in.
Therefore, begin by trying to identify at least three problems in
each of the categories listed below. Don't worry about whether
they'll work (almost any idea can be made to work for this
assignment); just write down all your ideas in each area.
Come up with at least three "problems" in each of the following
areas:
· your job or profession
· your major field of study
· school
· your local neighborhood, community, or town
· your hobbies or interests
· news or current events
· things that "bug" you
Now that you have at least 21 possible topic ideas, test them
against the following criteria to decide which ones might make
good topics:
· Is it arguable? Arguable issues are those 1) on which
reasonable people might disagree and 2) about which reasonable
people might be persuaded to change their minds. Topics might
be inarguable for two reasons. First, they might be problems
with certain answers on which few people would disagree. For
example, the problem of how to send a spaceship into orbit is
one which can be solved scientifically; since it has a certain
solution, there's nothing to argue about. Second, some problems
are not arguable because people hold their opinions on the issue
for inarguable reasons. For example, opinions on such issues as
abortion or the death penalty are often based on people's
religious beliefs, which can't be argued, since they can't be
proven or disproven.
· Is it researchable? Almost any topic can be researched: you
might be surprised at what sorts of seemingly trivial or local
problems have been studied by experts and scholars. By
research here, we mean published information and opinions that
can be accessed through American university libraries.
Therefore, topics that deal with problems outside the United
States may not be researchable, as they might require access to
foreign newspapers or studies in languages you don't read. You
should not try to do primary research of your own, such as
surveys or experiments. For one thing, you don't have time. For
another, such research requires specialized training which you
presumably don't have. And finally, experts have likely already
conducted studies and published their findings in the sources
available in the library; these sources will be much more
persuasive to your reader than any such studies you could
conduct yourself.
You may choose a topic on which there seems to be too much
research. As a rule of thumb, if someone has already written a
whole book about your topic, your topic is too broad. That
doesn't mean you have to abandon it; it does mean you need to
narrow it (see below for suggestions). There is almost no topic
which is too narrow; in fact, usually the more focused and
narrow your topic the better. If you think there will be nothing
written about your topic, don't worry. The best topics are often
those which venture into original territory, using sources and
information from related fields to break new ground. For
example, if you want to write about solving the problem of gang
activity in your local park, you might not be able to find
anything written about that specific problem. However, you
would certainly be able to find information on gangs and gang
activity, and on the ways in which other places have dealt with
similar problems. Your paper could use this research to try to
argue for a solution that fit the particular circumstances of your
neighborhood.
· Is it feasible? If your topic would require you to travel to
another country, learn another language, or develop an expert
understanding of some field you know nothing about, it may not
be feasible to expect to complete the project in four weeks.
· Most importantly, is it interesting to you? You'll have to spend
four weeks immersed in this topic, so you should try to pick a
topic that you are interested in and would like to learn more
about. Also, if you are interested in it, you will probably
communicate that interest to your reader, which is likely to help
your argument. Try to avoid, however, topics on which you
already have a strong fixed opinion or topics about which you
already know (or think you know) all that needs to be known.
To write and argue effectively on these topics, you will need to
be open to new information which may challenge your
preconceptions. You will also need to be able to understand
other points of view and present them sympathetically.
Students often initially define topics too broadly. One reason
for this is that they only learn how complex the topic is once
they have begun researching it. To prepare for this possibility,
try to imagine ways your topic might be narrowed or focused.
Here are some ways:
· Narrow the topic geographically. For example, if you're
interested in the problem of graffiti, consider writing about the
problem of graffiti in your town or neighborhood.
· Pick a specific kind of victim or harm done by the problem.
For example, if you want to write about the problems created by
adult children who move back in with their parents, you might
narrow the topic by focusing on the psychological harm
experienced by the children (instead of trying to address all the
possible kinds of harm to both children and parents).
· Try to divide the larger problem into sub-categories. For
example, if you're interested in the problem of over-regulation
of small businesses, consider writing about a specific regulation
and how it affects a specific business.
Exploratory Draft (due Week 1 via the Dropbox and to peer
group member via group page set up by instructor): The purpose
of this assignment is to identify what you know, what you think,
what you think you know, and what you need to learn about
your topic. You do not need to do any research for this paper;
instead, you will use it-and the experience of writing it-to guide
your subsequent research. You must write at least one, well-
formed paragraph in response to each of the following sets of
questions (i.e., at least 5 complete paragraphs):
· what is the problem? why is it a problem? who is harmed by
this problem?
· what are the most important causes of the problem? who is to
blame? what have they done, or failed to do, to create the
situation?
· what do you think should be done to address the problem? how
would this help? what different solutions might others propose,
and why do you think your idea is better?
· what are the possible costs or drawbacks of your proposal?
· who might object to your proposal? who might object to any of
your answers to any of the preceding questions? why might they
object?
If you have trouble answering any of these questions, say so and
try to explain why you can't answer the question at this point.
You will be graded on the clarity of your writing and the
thoughtfulness of your answers. The Preliminary Draft must be
typed, double-spaced, with 1" margins.
Annotated Bibliography (due Week 2; 5 sources, minimum ):
An annotated bibliography is a brief report on your research.
Each entry in the bibliography has two parts:
· A complete bibliographical citation of the source. For this
class, use either APA or MLA formats; these are described in
detail in our textbook (SA), pp. 489-513, as well as in the
Little, Brown Essential Handbook.
· The annotation: a brief paragraph describing the source,
evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, and describing how it
will be useful to you in making your argument.
Our textbook (SA) describes an annotated bibliography with
examples on pp. 472-73.
At the bottom of this page, you will find a detailed discussion
of different types of evidence and sources.
Summary/Critique #3 (due Week 3): This Summary/Critique
will follow the same format as the previous two. This S/C,
however, will be written about one of the sources you are using
in your Research Project Paper.
Rough Draft of Research Paper (due Week 3): The purpose of
this essay is to persuade your audience to agree that the solution
you propose to the problem is sound and effective. To do this,
your essay may need to do some or all of the following
· get the reader interested in the problem(s) your solution will
address
· explain the causes of the problem
· examine alternative solutions
· explain why your solution is a good one
· respond to likely opponents of your proposal, or to objections
to any parts of your argument
The Rough Draft should be at least 6-8 pages long (typed,
double-spaced).
Final Research Paper (due midnight Saturday, Week 4): This
draft should be 8-10 pages long (typed, double-spaced. Sources
should be correctly cited in either MLA or APA format in the
final drafts; these citation formats are explained and illustrated
in The Little, Brown Essential Handbook.
Evidence and Sources
When you begin researching a topic, for a paper or for any other
reason, it helps to know what you want to know. Rather than
just reading everything you can find on your topic, your
research will be more fruitful and efficient if you start with
certain specific questions in mind that you would like help
answering. Of course, as your research proceeds, you are likely
to discover new questions that hadn't originally occurred to
you. Writing a Preliminary Draft, such as you already have for
your Research Project can help you identify what you don't
know, as well as what you think you do know but can't defend
without supporting evidence.
Once you've determined these initial questions, you need to
decide
1. what sorts of evidence that will help answer them and
2. where you might find such evidence.
Different kinds of evidence and different kinds of sources are
discussed below, along with their strengths and weaknesses:
Kinds of Evidence:
Examples or anecdotes: Example and anecdotes (brief true
stories) illustrate a phenomenon. Examples and anecdotes show
that whatever you are talking about actually exists. If you are
writing about the problems of the homeless mentally ill, you
might briefly describe the actual experiences of one such
person. Such an anecdote would not only show that there is at
least one true instance of this problem, it could also help make
that problem seem real and vivid to your reader. This is the
great value of examples and anecdotes in an argument: they can
capture the reader's attention and perhaps stir the reader's
emotions through concrete detail and the power of storytelling.
The great disadvantage of examples and anecdotes is that they
can't show that the phenomenon they describe is widespread or
common. Telling the story of a homeless mentally ill person
only proves that there is one such person.
Statistics: Statistics measure phenomena in numbers: they can
describe how many people are affected by a problem, how much
something costs, how rapidly a problem is growing, etc. Unlike
examples or anecdotes, statistics may be able to give your
reader the "big picture." However, statistics tend to get readers
less emotionally involved than do concrete examples or
anecdotes. The virtues and drawbacks of statistics are the
opposite of those of examples and anecdotes; thus, writers often
combine the two sorts of evidence. When you use statistics (or
any kind of evidence), be sure you explain to your reader how
to interpret that evidence, what that evidence means. Simply
stating, for example, that the median life expectancy for an
American male is 78 years doesn't tell us whether this is a good
or bad thing. If you want to argue that it could be higher if
Americans altered their diet, the figure would be evidence of a
problem. On the other hand, by comparison with the lower life
expectancies of the past, it might look like progress.
Expert opinions: Examples, anecdotes, and statistics are good
for demonstrating concrete phenomena: things that can be seen,
touched, or measured. But many of the phenomena you will be
writing about are not concrete. The psychological harm
experienced by crime victims or the motives that make people in
certain countries oppose capital punishment are not things one
can see or even prove. To help you support your arguments
about such phenomena, it helps to gather support from experts
who have carefully studied and thought about these issues. Be
sure that you know something about the credentials of the
experts you cite. The drawback to expert testimony is that it
often represents opinion rather than, though presumably a well-
informed opinion. Be sure to acknowledge conflicting expert
opinions.
Analogies: Analogies are situations which resemble the one you
are writing about in some useful way. If you want to propose a
program for reducing crime in your neighborhood, you might
point to another city that used a similar program with success.
Analogies are useful for topics where there may not be much
evidence that applies to your specific topic (e.g., a problem in
your town). Analogies are also useful for arguing that proposals
will work: you can't know for a fact that any proposed solution
will work, but you can point out that similar programs worked
in similar situations in the past. Analogies, however, are never
perfect. No two places or situations are identical, and there may
be significant differences that call the analogy into question.
A good, careful explanation: Arguable topics are arguable in
part because the evidence for any position is not conclusive.
You will never find all of the evidence that you want to make an
airtight case for your point of view: if you could, who would be
able to disagree with you? No matter how much evidence you
gather, you always need to explain to your reader how it fits
together to support your claims. If you want to argue that a
situation may harm certain people, or that it was caused by
certain factors, or that a particular proposal might make it
better, you need to explain how these causes lead to the effects
you claim they do.
Kinds of Sources: Sources should be evaluated according to
several criteria:
· are they reliable?
· are they up to date?
· how easy are they to get and read?
· what kinds of evidence are they likely to contain?
· will they refer a reader to other useful sources?
Most of these kinds of sources can be accessed through the
National University Library, which possesses many data-bases
that allow you to print, download, or order the full-text of
journal, magazine, and newspaper articles, and even some
books, through your computer.
Books: Books will generally be written by experts in their field,
or at least by authors who have spent a lot of time studying the
topic. Authors of books may well push a particular bias or point
of view, but they are likely to at least recognize other points of
view. Books are, of course, often quite long; for college paper
topics, you should generally not have to read entire books.
Indeed, if there is an entire book on your topic, your topic is too
big to deal with well in even a fairly long paper. More often,
when using books, you will only be refering to parts of the
book. Look for books on the larger topics within which your
topic is a more specific one. For example, if you are writing on
the gang problem in your neighborhood, you certainly wouldn't
expect to find a whole book just on that topic. However, you
might well find books on street gangs or on the history of your
town, parts of which might be relevant to your topic. Use the
Table of Contents and Index of a book to find the parts that
answer your specific questions. Books can be good sources for
the history of a problem, which they may summarize in an
opening chapter. Books also generally have extensive
bibliographies which might direct you to other useful sources.
In addition to their length (and because of it), books have the
added disadvantage of being generally at least a year out of
date, due to the length of time it takes to write a book and get it
published.
Scholarly and Professional Journals: Like books, articles in
these specialized periodicals will be written by experts in the
field whose work has been judged to be worthy by their peers.
Such articles will be shorter than books, more narrowly focused,
and often more up to date. They will also provide useful
bibliographies and perhaps a condensed overview of the issues
they address. The only disadvantages of journal articles are that
they will be somewhat out of date (it generally takes several
months at least for a journal article to be published) and
possibly more challenging to read. As someone who is
developing expertise in this field yourself, however, you must
consult the experts directly, and this is the way to do it.
Magazines: Magazines are periodicals that are published for the
general public, usually in order to make money for their
publishers. Examples include Time, Newsweek, Sports
Illustrated, etc. Magazine articles are generally written by
journalists without specialized training or expertise in a
particular field, though they may quote or interview experts in
the field. Because their audience is non-experts, magazine
articles can be good places to begin learning about a topic, but
they will generally not give you the sort of complex analysis
and detail experts (like yourself) really command. For this
reason too, magazines generally don't cite sources or provide
bibliographies. The main advantages of magazines are that they
are easy to read (though this also reflects the limitation of their
authors' and audiences' expertise) and that they tend to be pretty
current: the popular news magazines are published every week.
Newspapers: Newspapers have the same advantages and
disadvantages as magazine articles. The main difference is that
newspapers come out everyday and are thus one of the most
current sources of information. Note that newspaper publish
many different kinds of articles: reporting on the day's events,
longer feature articles which examine an issue over a longer
period of time, and opinion/editorial writing in which authors
(often experts in their fields) take stands on controversial
issues.
The World Wide Web: The Web is very easy to access, but must
be used with caution. Remember that there are no librarians or
editors on the Web to help verify the quality of what is posted
there. While there is an increasing volume of good information
on the Web, it is up to you to determine whether what you are
looking at is credible and complete. YOU SHOULD NEVER DO
ALL OF YOUR RESEARCH FOR ANY PAPER ON THE
INTERNET. ALWAYS CONSULT LIBRARY SOURCES.
Personal Experiences/Interviews: If your own experiences or
those of people you know are relevant to your paper, they may
be useful. Such evidence has the same value and limitations
noted above in the discussion of anecdotes. In addition, it may
give the reader the impression that your perspective is too
subjective rather than based on a thorough review of other
informed opinions. Unless you are writing a paper that
specifically requires you to conduct primary research, you
should probably avoid trying to do interviews or polls yourself.
These require specialized training to do correctly, and they may
well have already been done and published by people who know
how to do them right. Look for them in the library before
thinking about doing them yourself.
The purpose of this assignment is to help you identify
· what you know,
· what you think,
· what you think you know, and
· what you need to learn
about your Research Project topic.
You do not need to do any research for this paper; instead, you
will use it—and the experience of writing it—to guide your
subsequent research. You must write at least one well-formed
paragraph in response to each of the following sets of questions
(i.e., at least 5 complete paragraphs):
1. what is the problem? why is it a problem? who is harmed by
this problem?
2. what are the most important causes of the problem? who is to
blame? what have they done, or failed to do, to create the
situation?
3. what do you think should be done to address the problem?
how would this help? what different solutions might others
propose, and why do you think your idea is better?
4. what are the possible costs or drawbacks of your proposal?
5. who might object to your proposal? who might object to any
of your answers to any of the preceding questions? why might
they object?
If you have trouble answering any of these questions, say so in
your paragraph and try to explain why you can’t answer the
question at this point. You will be graded on the clarity of your
writing and the thoughtfulness of your answers. The
Exploratory Draft must be typed, double-spaced, with 1"
margins; it is due midnight Sunday of Week 1.

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  • 1. Your final Research Paper for ENG 240 will propose and defend a solution to a debatable problem. Unless arranged otherwise with the instructor, assume that the audience of your paper is your fellow students in the class. The purpose of the essay is to persuade that audience that they should support your proposed solution. We will work towards the Final Draft of the paper by first identifying our preliminary thoughts on the topic, then identifying relevant research sources, and then producing a series of drafts of the final argument. Schedule of Research paper assignments: Select Topic (due Week 1 on threaded discussion): You should begin by listing as many topic ideas as you can. The more ideas you come up with for topics, the better your chances of coming up with a good one that you will enjoy working on. The best topics are ones that you have some personal interest in. Therefore, begin by trying to identify at least three problems in each of the categories listed below. Don't worry about whether they'll work (almost any idea can be made to work for this assignment); just write down all your ideas in each area. Come up with at least three "problems" in each of the following areas: · your job or profession · your major field of study · school · your local neighborhood, community, or town · your hobbies or interests · news or current events · things that "bug" you Now that you have at least 21 possible topic ideas, test them against the following criteria to decide which ones might make good topics: · Is it arguable? Arguable issues are those 1) on which reasonable people might disagree and 2) about which reasonable people might be persuaded to change their minds. Topics might
  • 2. be inarguable for two reasons. First, they might be problems with certain answers on which few people would disagree. For example, the problem of how to send a spaceship into orbit is one which can be solved scientifically; since it has a certain solution, there's nothing to argue about. Second, some problems are not arguable because people hold their opinions on the issue for inarguable reasons. For example, opinions on such issues as abortion or the death penalty are often based on people's religious beliefs, which can't be argued, since they can't be proven or disproven. · Is it researchable? Almost any topic can be researched: you might be surprised at what sorts of seemingly trivial or local problems have been studied by experts and scholars. By research here, we mean published information and opinions that can be accessed through American university libraries. Therefore, topics that deal with problems outside the United States may not be researchable, as they might require access to foreign newspapers or studies in languages you don't read. You should not try to do primary research of your own, such as surveys or experiments. For one thing, you don't have time. For another, such research requires specialized training which you presumably don't have. And finally, experts have likely already conducted studies and published their findings in the sources available in the library; these sources will be much more persuasive to your reader than any such studies you could conduct yourself. You may choose a topic on which there seems to be too much research. As a rule of thumb, if someone has already written a whole book about your topic, your topic is too broad. That doesn't mean you have to abandon it; it does mean you need to narrow it (see below for suggestions). There is almost no topic which is too narrow; in fact, usually the more focused and narrow your topic the better. If you think there will be nothing written about your topic, don't worry. The best topics are often those which venture into original territory, using sources and information from related fields to break new ground. For
  • 3. example, if you want to write about solving the problem of gang activity in your local park, you might not be able to find anything written about that specific problem. However, you would certainly be able to find information on gangs and gang activity, and on the ways in which other places have dealt with similar problems. Your paper could use this research to try to argue for a solution that fit the particular circumstances of your neighborhood. · Is it feasible? If your topic would require you to travel to another country, learn another language, or develop an expert understanding of some field you know nothing about, it may not be feasible to expect to complete the project in four weeks. · Most importantly, is it interesting to you? You'll have to spend four weeks immersed in this topic, so you should try to pick a topic that you are interested in and would like to learn more about. Also, if you are interested in it, you will probably communicate that interest to your reader, which is likely to help your argument. Try to avoid, however, topics on which you already have a strong fixed opinion or topics about which you already know (or think you know) all that needs to be known. To write and argue effectively on these topics, you will need to be open to new information which may challenge your preconceptions. You will also need to be able to understand other points of view and present them sympathetically. Students often initially define topics too broadly. One reason for this is that they only learn how complex the topic is once they have begun researching it. To prepare for this possibility, try to imagine ways your topic might be narrowed or focused. Here are some ways: · Narrow the topic geographically. For example, if you're interested in the problem of graffiti, consider writing about the problem of graffiti in your town or neighborhood. · Pick a specific kind of victim or harm done by the problem. For example, if you want to write about the problems created by adult children who move back in with their parents, you might narrow the topic by focusing on the psychological harm
  • 4. experienced by the children (instead of trying to address all the possible kinds of harm to both children and parents). · Try to divide the larger problem into sub-categories. For example, if you're interested in the problem of over-regulation of small businesses, consider writing about a specific regulation and how it affects a specific business. Exploratory Draft (due Week 1 via the Dropbox and to peer group member via group page set up by instructor): The purpose of this assignment is to identify what you know, what you think, what you think you know, and what you need to learn about your topic. You do not need to do any research for this paper; instead, you will use it-and the experience of writing it-to guide your subsequent research. You must write at least one, well- formed paragraph in response to each of the following sets of questions (i.e., at least 5 complete paragraphs): · what is the problem? why is it a problem? who is harmed by this problem? · what are the most important causes of the problem? who is to blame? what have they done, or failed to do, to create the situation? · what do you think should be done to address the problem? how would this help? what different solutions might others propose, and why do you think your idea is better? · what are the possible costs or drawbacks of your proposal? · who might object to your proposal? who might object to any of your answers to any of the preceding questions? why might they object? If you have trouble answering any of these questions, say so and try to explain why you can't answer the question at this point. You will be graded on the clarity of your writing and the thoughtfulness of your answers. The Preliminary Draft must be typed, double-spaced, with 1" margins. Annotated Bibliography (due Week 2; 5 sources, minimum ): An annotated bibliography is a brief report on your research. Each entry in the bibliography has two parts: · A complete bibliographical citation of the source. For this
  • 5. class, use either APA or MLA formats; these are described in detail in our textbook (SA), pp. 489-513, as well as in the Little, Brown Essential Handbook. · The annotation: a brief paragraph describing the source, evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, and describing how it will be useful to you in making your argument. Our textbook (SA) describes an annotated bibliography with examples on pp. 472-73. At the bottom of this page, you will find a detailed discussion of different types of evidence and sources. Summary/Critique #3 (due Week 3): This Summary/Critique will follow the same format as the previous two. This S/C, however, will be written about one of the sources you are using in your Research Project Paper. Rough Draft of Research Paper (due Week 3): The purpose of this essay is to persuade your audience to agree that the solution you propose to the problem is sound and effective. To do this, your essay may need to do some or all of the following · get the reader interested in the problem(s) your solution will address · explain the causes of the problem · examine alternative solutions · explain why your solution is a good one · respond to likely opponents of your proposal, or to objections to any parts of your argument The Rough Draft should be at least 6-8 pages long (typed, double-spaced). Final Research Paper (due midnight Saturday, Week 4): This draft should be 8-10 pages long (typed, double-spaced. Sources should be correctly cited in either MLA or APA format in the final drafts; these citation formats are explained and illustrated in The Little, Brown Essential Handbook. Evidence and Sources When you begin researching a topic, for a paper or for any other reason, it helps to know what you want to know. Rather than
  • 6. just reading everything you can find on your topic, your research will be more fruitful and efficient if you start with certain specific questions in mind that you would like help answering. Of course, as your research proceeds, you are likely to discover new questions that hadn't originally occurred to you. Writing a Preliminary Draft, such as you already have for your Research Project can help you identify what you don't know, as well as what you think you do know but can't defend without supporting evidence. Once you've determined these initial questions, you need to decide 1. what sorts of evidence that will help answer them and 2. where you might find such evidence. Different kinds of evidence and different kinds of sources are discussed below, along with their strengths and weaknesses: Kinds of Evidence: Examples or anecdotes: Example and anecdotes (brief true stories) illustrate a phenomenon. Examples and anecdotes show that whatever you are talking about actually exists. If you are writing about the problems of the homeless mentally ill, you might briefly describe the actual experiences of one such person. Such an anecdote would not only show that there is at least one true instance of this problem, it could also help make that problem seem real and vivid to your reader. This is the great value of examples and anecdotes in an argument: they can capture the reader's attention and perhaps stir the reader's emotions through concrete detail and the power of storytelling. The great disadvantage of examples and anecdotes is that they can't show that the phenomenon they describe is widespread or common. Telling the story of a homeless mentally ill person only proves that there is one such person. Statistics: Statistics measure phenomena in numbers: they can describe how many people are affected by a problem, how much something costs, how rapidly a problem is growing, etc. Unlike examples or anecdotes, statistics may be able to give your reader the "big picture." However, statistics tend to get readers
  • 7. less emotionally involved than do concrete examples or anecdotes. The virtues and drawbacks of statistics are the opposite of those of examples and anecdotes; thus, writers often combine the two sorts of evidence. When you use statistics (or any kind of evidence), be sure you explain to your reader how to interpret that evidence, what that evidence means. Simply stating, for example, that the median life expectancy for an American male is 78 years doesn't tell us whether this is a good or bad thing. If you want to argue that it could be higher if Americans altered their diet, the figure would be evidence of a problem. On the other hand, by comparison with the lower life expectancies of the past, it might look like progress. Expert opinions: Examples, anecdotes, and statistics are good for demonstrating concrete phenomena: things that can be seen, touched, or measured. But many of the phenomena you will be writing about are not concrete. The psychological harm experienced by crime victims or the motives that make people in certain countries oppose capital punishment are not things one can see or even prove. To help you support your arguments about such phenomena, it helps to gather support from experts who have carefully studied and thought about these issues. Be sure that you know something about the credentials of the experts you cite. The drawback to expert testimony is that it often represents opinion rather than, though presumably a well- informed opinion. Be sure to acknowledge conflicting expert opinions. Analogies: Analogies are situations which resemble the one you are writing about in some useful way. If you want to propose a program for reducing crime in your neighborhood, you might point to another city that used a similar program with success. Analogies are useful for topics where there may not be much evidence that applies to your specific topic (e.g., a problem in your town). Analogies are also useful for arguing that proposals will work: you can't know for a fact that any proposed solution will work, but you can point out that similar programs worked in similar situations in the past. Analogies, however, are never
  • 8. perfect. No two places or situations are identical, and there may be significant differences that call the analogy into question. A good, careful explanation: Arguable topics are arguable in part because the evidence for any position is not conclusive. You will never find all of the evidence that you want to make an airtight case for your point of view: if you could, who would be able to disagree with you? No matter how much evidence you gather, you always need to explain to your reader how it fits together to support your claims. If you want to argue that a situation may harm certain people, or that it was caused by certain factors, or that a particular proposal might make it better, you need to explain how these causes lead to the effects you claim they do. Kinds of Sources: Sources should be evaluated according to several criteria: · are they reliable? · are they up to date? · how easy are they to get and read? · what kinds of evidence are they likely to contain? · will they refer a reader to other useful sources? Most of these kinds of sources can be accessed through the National University Library, which possesses many data-bases that allow you to print, download, or order the full-text of journal, magazine, and newspaper articles, and even some books, through your computer. Books: Books will generally be written by experts in their field, or at least by authors who have spent a lot of time studying the topic. Authors of books may well push a particular bias or point of view, but they are likely to at least recognize other points of view. Books are, of course, often quite long; for college paper topics, you should generally not have to read entire books. Indeed, if there is an entire book on your topic, your topic is too big to deal with well in even a fairly long paper. More often, when using books, you will only be refering to parts of the book. Look for books on the larger topics within which your topic is a more specific one. For example, if you are writing on
  • 9. the gang problem in your neighborhood, you certainly wouldn't expect to find a whole book just on that topic. However, you might well find books on street gangs or on the history of your town, parts of which might be relevant to your topic. Use the Table of Contents and Index of a book to find the parts that answer your specific questions. Books can be good sources for the history of a problem, which they may summarize in an opening chapter. Books also generally have extensive bibliographies which might direct you to other useful sources. In addition to their length (and because of it), books have the added disadvantage of being generally at least a year out of date, due to the length of time it takes to write a book and get it published. Scholarly and Professional Journals: Like books, articles in these specialized periodicals will be written by experts in the field whose work has been judged to be worthy by their peers. Such articles will be shorter than books, more narrowly focused, and often more up to date. They will also provide useful bibliographies and perhaps a condensed overview of the issues they address. The only disadvantages of journal articles are that they will be somewhat out of date (it generally takes several months at least for a journal article to be published) and possibly more challenging to read. As someone who is developing expertise in this field yourself, however, you must consult the experts directly, and this is the way to do it. Magazines: Magazines are periodicals that are published for the general public, usually in order to make money for their publishers. Examples include Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, etc. Magazine articles are generally written by journalists without specialized training or expertise in a particular field, though they may quote or interview experts in the field. Because their audience is non-experts, magazine articles can be good places to begin learning about a topic, but they will generally not give you the sort of complex analysis and detail experts (like yourself) really command. For this reason too, magazines generally don't cite sources or provide
  • 10. bibliographies. The main advantages of magazines are that they are easy to read (though this also reflects the limitation of their authors' and audiences' expertise) and that they tend to be pretty current: the popular news magazines are published every week. Newspapers: Newspapers have the same advantages and disadvantages as magazine articles. The main difference is that newspapers come out everyday and are thus one of the most current sources of information. Note that newspaper publish many different kinds of articles: reporting on the day's events, longer feature articles which examine an issue over a longer period of time, and opinion/editorial writing in which authors (often experts in their fields) take stands on controversial issues. The World Wide Web: The Web is very easy to access, but must be used with caution. Remember that there are no librarians or editors on the Web to help verify the quality of what is posted there. While there is an increasing volume of good information on the Web, it is up to you to determine whether what you are looking at is credible and complete. YOU SHOULD NEVER DO ALL OF YOUR RESEARCH FOR ANY PAPER ON THE INTERNET. ALWAYS CONSULT LIBRARY SOURCES. Personal Experiences/Interviews: If your own experiences or those of people you know are relevant to your paper, they may be useful. Such evidence has the same value and limitations noted above in the discussion of anecdotes. In addition, it may give the reader the impression that your perspective is too subjective rather than based on a thorough review of other informed opinions. Unless you are writing a paper that specifically requires you to conduct primary research, you should probably avoid trying to do interviews or polls yourself. These require specialized training to do correctly, and they may well have already been done and published by people who know how to do them right. Look for them in the library before thinking about doing them yourself.
  • 11. The purpose of this assignment is to help you identify · what you know, · what you think, · what you think you know, and · what you need to learn about your Research Project topic. You do not need to do any research for this paper; instead, you will use it—and the experience of writing it—to guide your subsequent research. You must write at least one well-formed paragraph in response to each of the following sets of questions (i.e., at least 5 complete paragraphs): 1. what is the problem? why is it a problem? who is harmed by this problem? 2. what are the most important causes of the problem? who is to blame? what have they done, or failed to do, to create the situation? 3. what do you think should be done to address the problem? how would this help? what different solutions might others propose, and why do you think your idea is better? 4. what are the possible costs or drawbacks of your proposal? 5. who might object to your proposal? who might object to any of your answers to any of the preceding questions? why might they object? If you have trouble answering any of these questions, say so in your paragraph and try to explain why you can’t answer the question at this point. You will be graded on the clarity of your writing and the thoughtfulness of your answers. The Exploratory Draft must be typed, double-spaced, with 1" margins; it is due midnight Sunday of Week 1.