Now that you’ve completed your annotated bibliography, you are ready to begin writing your research paper. The main goal of this paper will be to use your research to present your own unique argument on the topic you’ve chosen. This paper will be 7-8 pages long.
Your paper should begin with a thesis stating your argument. You should then develop your argument by summarizing some of the main ideas on your topic as presented in your sources. With each paragraph you should connect to your thesis statement, providing evidence to support your claim. Think back on our early discussion of rhetorical strategies (appeals to ethos/pathos/logos, framing, concessions, counterarguments, etc). Use these strategies to make your own argument. Along the way, you should be sure to quote from your sources and use them to illustrate your points. Also, be sure to use MLA formatting for in-text citations and include a “Works Cited” page listing every source you reference within the body of the paper.
- Create a complex thesis that offers new insight into your topic
- Use your sources to support and develop your thesis
- Analyze the arguments of other writers and apply their ideas to your topic
- Learn to effectively integrate sources into your work, balancing quotations with your own thoughts and ideas
- Synthesize (bring together in a coherent discussion) a variety of ideas on your given topic
- Effectively use MLA formatting for in-text citations and “Works Cited” page
Step 1: Create a Working Thesis
Using your research questions, create a preliminary argument on your topic. Remember that a good thesis should be debatable (i.e. it should not be an obvious point that all people agree on). To make your thesis complex, think about answering the HOW and WHY questions.
For example, a basic thesis might be:
“The way we talk about obesity is ineffective.”
This thesis could be improved by incorporating the following questions: How do we talk about obesity? Who is the “we” that the writer is referring to? Why is the way we talk about obesity ineffective? What does “ineffective” mean in this context?
Thinking about the above questions, one might make the thesis stronger. A new thesis might read:
“By emphasizing ‘good food choices,’ government programs aimed at reducing obesity help contribute to an obesity discourse that shames people for the way they look. This discourse has been shown to be counterproductive by obesity researchers. To more effectively address the obesity epidemic, obesity discourse should focus on health rather than weight.”
This thesis is more complex and interesting than the first one. For one thing, we now know who the “we” is in the first thesis: the “we” is actually government-sponsored anti-obesity campaigns. We also know that the author believes they are ineffective because they contribute to a discourse that shames obese people. Finally, the new thesis statement offers a potential change that organization could make to improve their communication around obesity. There is still more work to do here. For example, it would be good to be more specific about how “emphasizing ‘good food choices'” leads to a discourse that “shames people for the way they look.” But, this is a good start.
An important note:
Remember that you will likely have to modify and adapt your thesis as you write. Writing is a process that enables thinking and generates new ideas. As you write, you will come up with new arguments and different ideas. You should embrace this process and adjust your thesis accordingly as your ideas change.
Step 2: Write a draft
You should aim to have a complete 7-8 page draft for peer review. Begin with your thesis and use your body paragraphs to provide evidence to support your thesis. You may also use your initial paragraphs to provide context for your thesis.
A note on organization: Because you are writing and referencing multiple sources, it can be tempting to write a paragraph about article A and then a paragraph about article B, and so on. But, your paper will be much more effective if you organize it by topic rather than by article. Instead of writing a paper in which you discuss article A and then article B and so on, discuss issue #1 and show how articles A, B, C, and D address that issue. Then address issue #2 in relation to articles A, B, C, and D. Etc.
Step 3: Hone your Thesis, Introduction, and Conclusion
Thesis: After you’ve written a draft of the paper, review your working thesis. Does it match with the points you’ve made in the paper. Most likely the paper will have drifted away from your initial argument. Take some time to adjust your thesis and hone it so that it more accurately represents your argument.
Introduction: It’s a good idea to go back to your introduction also and make adjustments as need. Your introduction should serve as a roadmap for your paper. After reading your introduction we should have a clear idea of there the paper is going to go and what you are going to argue. If this is not the case, adjust your introduction accordingly.
Conclusion: Now that you’ve had some time to think about your paper as a whole, consider how you would like to end the paper. Your conclusion should do more than simply restate your original argument. You should summarize your points, but also offer a new context for your argument or a new way to address this idea in the future.
Details: Your completed paper should be 7-8 pages (double-spaced, 12 pt. font, with 1-in. margins). See rubric for grading details.