Author: Susan Munkres
Class: Sociology 210
Description: Susan Munkres' research paper assignment clearly highlights how a long paper can be broken down into manageable steps to encourage students to take the time to think, research, draft, and revise before turning in their final drafts. Note also her clear discussion of research questions and thesis statements.


Sequencing and Coaching the Research Paper

THE GOAL:

The Final Research Paper (10-12 pages) is an opportunity for you to make an argument about a topic of your choice, based on and informed by scholarly articles and/or books that relate to your topic.

To this end, your paper is actually about a research problem, and your argument defends your answer to this research problem. Thus, the most important part of your paper will be the thesis statement. This is a "thesis" paper, similar to what you may have heard called an "argumentative paper." That means your paper will be trying to convince your reader of some main point or argument (the thesis). You will be using your paper to demonstrate to readers that if they were as smart as you and had done the research that you will have done, they would address this research problem the same way as you do. They would agree with your thesis statement, the position you are defending with your paper.

As examples, look at the following:


Problem: What are the consequences of individualism in the United States?
Thesis: Civil involvement is limited.

Problem: What accounts for the continuing existence of the underclass?
Thesis: While racism was the primary cause of the development of the underclass, the continued oppression of black people owes more to class dynamics than racial dynamics.

Problem: What are the dimensions in which class matters?
Thesis: There are two dimensions of "class" in the contemporary world: one is based on economic capital, and one is based on cultural capital.

(These will sound more familiar as the course goes on!)

Constructing a Research Problem:
There are several ways to construct a research problem from the general topic area that you have chosen. The research problem can usually be stated as a question, as shown above. Decide which aspect of the topic most interests you. Practice writing possible questions, which address various aspects. Pick the one which seems most answerable and most interesting! Remember that you are going to have to make an argument which answers this question from the research that you do. Your research problem can be centered around social phenomena ("How has the role of housewife changed in the last 30 years?") or policies ("Should gender segregation be eliminated in elementary schools?"). In either case, you will take a stand on this question in your thesis statement.

Your Thesis Statement:
Keep in mind that your thesis statement should reflect two things: both your real, actual opinion, and your research. These two are related; your real, actual opinion should be developed from the research that you read. The thesis statement is the motor of the paper; it drives the rest of the paper. In other words, the rest of your paper is one big demonstration of the truth of your thesis statement.

The Rest of the Paper:
Again, the main body of your paper will demonstrate and illustrate the truth of your thesis statement by referring to outside sources, probably including some of the articles you found for your Library Assignment.

STEPS ALONG THE WAY:

Topic Area Statement

Library Assignment

Writing Workshops
The writing workshops I've designed will help guide you through the process of developing papers. They focus on the larger issues earlier in the semester, and more specific editing/revising issues further on.

Date(s) Topic
February 5 Research Problems
February 12 and 17 Research Process/Library Skills
February 12 and 19 Arguments
March 5 Peer Review
March 26 Transitions and Structure
April 2 Outlines
April 16 Citing and Quoting

 

 

Used with permission from the University of Wisconsin Writing Across the Curriculum Website. http://mendota.english.wisc.edu/~WAC/


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