Learning Goal: I’m working on a writing question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.
Assignment Guidelines: Exploratory Research Paper
Min. 5 pages (no max.)
Before you begin your final persuasive paper (worth 25%), you will complete two assignments designed as groundwork: 1. An exploratory research paper that explains and justifies your research topic worth 20% and 2. An annotated bibliography worth 10%. You are not putting forth an argument in these initial assignments; you are objectively exploring and documenting your research topic. The exploratory paper and annotated bibliography should reflect a sustained and committed engagement with the issue, a full understanding of the various voices and complexities therein, and be characterized by diversity (forms of evidence, genres of text, and perspective). A reader should come away from these assignments with a balanced, unbiased, and thorough understanding of the issue.
Past students have described the exploratory paper as the hardest assignment they ever completed at Tulane. This is not because the assignment is difficult to figure out; rather, the level of commitment and sheer amount of hard work is quite intense and requires consistent, in-depth attention. Slack off for an extended period of time and the project can start to feel impossible. At the same time, when done properly, this project is immensely rewarding. Students complete this project with a sense of pride and many have gone on to change their major, adjust their vocational pursuits, and/or continue their investigation of their research topic long after the semester comes to a close. I still get emails and tweets about research projects from students who took my class years ago.
In the paper, you will explain the issue or research topic in an objective manner, including why you chose it, and why you think it is important to investigate. The bulk of the paper will be background, definitions, the existing conversation, and other context necessary to understand the issue or topic. You will also explain where you are in the research process and what areas you still need to look into. You are still in the research stages, so there will be areas that you cannot elaborate on in much detail; still, the paper should be as specific as possible in terms of subject matter and the various perspectives circulating within and around this topic.
For this assignment, you may use first person liberally—you are essentially detailing your research journey to an unfamiliar reader—and as always you should follow the rules of standard edited English while making your own stylistic choices and honing your own distinctive voice.
Your paper should
- Be no less than five pages. There is no maximum.
- Offer an engaging and informative title.
- Identify the issue.
- Provide a rationale for your topic choice (explaining why you think it’s important to know something about this topic and what conversations or events led you to pursue this topic);
- Provide definitions/history/background. What is the issue? What definitions, legal cases, history, and background are important to know in order to understand this issue? Who are the earliest significant thinkers on/characters in this issue and what do they think or represent?
- End with an explanation of where you are at in your research process. This is a space where you can voice any concerns or questions regarding the direction of your project, as well as areas/aspects you are excited or enthusiastic about.
- Use a minimum of seven sources and three genres; one of the seven sources must be a peer-reviewed journal article.
THE RESEARCH PAPER (20 POINTS POSSIBLE)
the topic has been articulated as an important question that the research will answer 4
the topic has either not yielded an important question or research that will answer it 3
the topic has neither yielded an important question nor any research that will answer it 2
the topic is never defined adequately nor linked to any relevant research 1
the research question has multi-dimensional, contestable answers and implications 4
the research question has a simpler array of answers and few implications 3
the research question has only one, incontestable answer and one implication 2
the research question has no conclusive answer nor any clear implications 1
the movement from important question to researched answers is subtle and engaging 4
the movement from important question to research answer is simpler, more abrupt 3
the movement from important question to researched answer breaks into two halves 2
the movement from important question to research answer is never made 1
COHERENCE / STYLE: SENTENCES ARE…
varied in distinctive, consistent, original voice and memorable phrases 4
is less varied, voice less distinctive, occasional lapsing into the less-than-graceful 3
sentence-structure repetitive, dull, and often awkward 2
several sentences sufficiently ill-formed to distract reader from intended message 1
CLARITY: THE PROSE HAS…
No errors 4
only a few, very minor errors 3
a few errors that significantly distract the reader 2
several errors that significantly distract the reader 1