Subject Guide Learning Outcomes
Students will be able to identify sources useful for preliminary research in order to explore the specific elements of their topics.
Students will brainstorm keywords in order to have a flexible set of terms when searching.
Students will be able to locate books that provide background information as well as in-depth information and discussions for their research questions.
Students will learn how to use certain databases to find articles that provide support for the research question.
What are your information seeking habits?
Research proposal due in Week 8
Research paper due in Week 10
*Please check the schedule and weekly overviews for exact due dates.*
1. Working with your assigned research group, use the provided list to select an academic field for your group to concentrate on; then, on your own, choose a subfield to be your specialty within your group.
2. Write an academic research paper on a focused topic of your choice, based on your own research. You may select any subfield and topic within your research group’s chosen academic field to specialize in. Your research paper must be based on a “problem” within your subfield—i.e., it will not provide a simple “yes/no” answer, must have a strong research question as its basis, and must focus on a specific issue within your subfield, rather than focusing on the entire subfield.
You may collaborate with your group in finding resources, refining your question, establishing a common background, discussing ideas, planning your group presentation, and reviewing drafts, but your paper must be your own.
As part of your research paper, you must submit a research proposal during Week 8. Your research proposal must include:
- Your narrowed research question
- Your proposed thesis statement
- A brief explanation of the relevance of your proposed project. Who would be interested in your project? Why? Consider the lists of stakeholders, developments, and controversies you and your group have identified in Weeks 6–7.
Your paper should be 6-10 pages long, double spaced, with a separate Works Cited page. Please include at least five citations from primarily academic sources, and use summary, paraphrase, and short and long quotations as appropriate. MLA format: Times New Roman, size 12 font, one inch margins, double-spaced, indented paragraphs, etc. Include your name and the title of the paper at the top.
Your research paper should include the following sections:
- Literature Review
- Original Argument
- Works Cited
Each section should have an appropriate heading, with the exception of the introduction. n
The introduction may include a heading, but it is not required. Your introduction paragraph should catch the reader’s attention (without being sensationalist or over-dramatic), provide any important background details, state your research question and main claim, and discuss the significance of your subtopics or the motivation for your research question.
This section will present information on your topic, including relevant history, basic statistics, controversies or debates, important stakeholders (people or organizations that are important or connected to the topic), etc. It should make use of at least two sources of tertiary research on your field and/or subfield of study, and should provide a solid background for understanding the more in-depth information provided in your Literature Review.
You can think of your background as the “story” of your topic, told within the context of your subfield.
It can have the structure of a narrative, but it should be written in a formal style, with plenty of citations.
Your literature review will be divided into two subsections, "Summary" and "Evaluation," and discuss the current research on your subject. This is the place to show what questions are already being asked, what controversies have arisen, what knowledge or ideas are generally accepted, and what has been disproven or discredited. This is also where you should show the limitations of the existing research: what questions have not been asked, what information seems to be missing, what research methods have been insufficient. This section will provide the framework for your Original Argument and provide context for your research question. You should discuss at least three sources of primary and secondary research.
All of the sources for this section should be as recent or up-to-date as possible, and should have specific importance to your topic. For example, an article from a scholarly journal in your field would be very appropriate, while a chapter from a beginning textbook would not.
The first section should present a comparison of the sources you have surveyed for this paper. The paragraphs in this section should each focus on a topic, issue, dispute, or question rather than a summary of only one source; each paragraph should compare positions or ideas from more than one source. It should also reflect the relevance of these positions or ideas to your main idea.
When writing your summary, look for other authors who have asked questions similar to yours, and try to objectively report the answers they found.
Your discussion and evaluation section (about 3+ paragraphs) will evaluate all (and only) the sources you have introduced in your summary section. Using reasoned arguments rather than personal opinions, discuss the significance of your sources’ results, the adequacy of their research methods, any assumptions or unresolved questions, etc. You may ask yourself, “how do these other scholars’ questions and answers contribute to or affect my question?”
Your original argument presents and supports the answer to your research question—your paper’s main claim. Begin with a paragraph explaining your research question—what inspired it, and what could your answer contribute to the field? This discussion should be framed in terms of the issues discussed in the Literature Review.
You will be constructing your own argument as a direct response to your research question, paying attention to the issues raised by the sources you have consulted for this project. If your main claim is compatible with those of your sources, show how your analysis makes a unique contribution to the field. If it disagrees, explain why. In both cases, present your evidence and reasons clearly, as well as acknowledgments and responses if necessary. Remember to acknowledge and address possible questions or counterarguments, and to show how your specific argument connects to important issues or debates within your field.
You may include primary research (i.e. your own surveys, interviews, experiments, etc.), but should depend mostly on the secondary research discussed in your Literature Review, making sure to show clearly how the results of the Literature Review contribute to the process of answering your question. You may bring in one or two more sources if appropriate.
While writing your conclusion, imagine that someone has read your paper and asked “so what?” Rather than purely summarizing what you’ve discussed in your paper, the conclusion needs to show the significance of your work, your research, your arguments, and the questions you have asked. You should leave your reader with a sense of why your paper was important, and with good reasons to keep thinking about the text, issue and arguments you have discussed. Consider offering suggestions for further research. Include a heading for this section.
Your Works Cited page should include at least five sources that you have engaged with in the various sections of your paper. Refer to the Purdue OWL style guide or Lunsford’s Everyday Writer for proper MLA formatting.
- Keep your research question in mind the whole time you are researching and writing. This will help you stay focused on your topic and avoid getting distracted by interesting but irrelevant sources and discussions.
- Think of the paper as a conversation - what would you need to have a successful conversation with someone about your topic? Use this idea to spot places where more background information is needed, or where the evidence could be more convincing. What annoying conversational habits might you be committing in this paper?
- Use your introduction to state the main claim of your discussion and to prepare the reader to understand your topic, and your conclusion to make sure your reader followed the whole thing.
- Try to keep each paragraph focused around some main point or topic; look for natural shifts in focus or transitions between important ideas, and use these as chances to break to a new paragraph. Mix in different types of evidence to support your claims.
- Don’t patchwrite! Mixing together bits and pieces of other people’s writing is not original research. Make sure you paraphrase thoroughly, and keep the focus on your own discussion.
- Always try to find the original published source of the data, ideas, or quotations you are using. If you read a statistic on Wikipedia, track down the original source and cite that. If you read in Mental Floss about a scientific study done at the University of Notre Dame, track down the actual journal that published the study or find the research program’s website.
- Meet with your assigned research group to choose a field.
- Identify your subfield, gather tertiary (background) information and secondary (current) research, and start thinking of possible research questions.
- Start writing your Background section and Research Proposal
- Solidify your research question and keep gathering/reading current research.
- Research Proposal due in class
- Start writing Literature Review
- Keep looking for relevant research while you read the materials you have found in Week 7. Start formulating a possible answer to your research question.
- Meet with your group to plan your research presentation in Week 9.
- Start writing your Original Argument.
- Research presentations in class.
- Rough drafts of Background and Literature Review due in class—review, compare, and edit your research with your group members.
- Rough drafts of Original Argument due in class—review, compare, and edit your research with your group members.
- Make corrections and final additions to your completed paper.
- Final draft of Research Paper due on last day of class.