Your course work is divided up into the various assignment categories above. The entire quarter will be devoted to a single research topic of your own choice within the social sciences (we will spend some time going through a process of picking a good, workable research topic). You will write three major essays relating to that topic, all of which will require research and documentation. Review the Research Topics page for further discussion.
Discussion Forum Postings: In addition to the three major essays, you will post informal assignments to the course's Discussion Forum (DF). These will ask you to respond to readings from our textbooks; explore concepts related to the writing process, research tools, academic argument, research methodologies, and the social sciences; brainstorm ideas related to your research topic and question; report on preliminary steps related to your major essays; respond to each other; and so on.
First Drafts and Peer Reviews: For the Background Essay, Scholarly Review, and Final Research Article, you will also copy and paste your first draft into a Canvas forum in order to receive a peer review from another classmate. You will upload the final draft of each of these three major essays as a Canvas assignment.
Reflective Essay: Finally, at the end of the quarter, you will write a brief reflective essay, assessing what you learned in the course as a whole.
Note: You will write the major essays (first and final drafts) in third person only, not first person ("I," "me," "my," "we," etc.) or second person ("you"). However, you may use first person in your Discussion Forum (DF) postings, peer reviews, and reflective essay.
Don't be alarmed by the 8-10 page length requirement of the Final Research Article (FRA)! This essay will include revised materials from the first two essays you would have already written earlier in the quarter, the Background Essay (BE) and the Scholarly Review (SR), which means that you will only be expected to write 4-5 new pages (not including title page, abstract, and references) for the final major assignment. The purpose of the three essays, along with the numerous informal assignments throughout the quarter, is to guide you through the important steps in a research process to allow you to produce an original, complex, and informed analysis of a narrowed topic of your choosing (with instructor approval). As I will say on numerous occasions, the purpose is not merely to give your opinion; nor to prove a point; nor to take a position in a yes/no, for/against, pro/con, good/bad, either/or debate; nor to solve a problem; nor to predict the future. Rather, your purpose is to join the scholarly conversation on your topic and contribute original analysis based on a focused and critical examination of previously published data, research studies, and interpretations. In this class, you will see yourself as a research scholar and knowledge producer, not merely as a reporter of other people's information and analysis. More detailed assignment guidelines for each major essay will be available as separate handouts, but a brief overview follows below:
Background Essay (4-5 pages): This exploratory essay asks you to present background information relating to your proposed narrowed topic, including relevant history, laws and policies, key stakeholders, statistics, organizations and programs, debates or disagreements, problems, etc. This assignment provides you the opportunity to learn more about your narrowed topic, not only to inform your reader, but to allow you to identify what aspects of your topic you may wish to research and understand further. Of the three essays, this one requires the least explicit written analysis on your part, but it is still not a "data dump," in which you just throw together all the information you can find. You will still need to exercise and exhibit your own critical thinking and creativity in narrowing your topic, as well as selecting, organizing and presenting relevant information in a clear, concise and meaningful way. A minimum of five diverse sources are required for this essay.
Scholarly Review (5-6 pages): A scholarly review of published original research studies and critical analyses of a particular topic is part of any final research study or report since it demonstrates that you are familiar with what other scholars have already studied and published on your subject. This allows you then to map out what new arena or research question you would like to pursue. There is, after all, no point in reinventing the wheel, i.e., undertaking a study or analysis that someone else has already done or trying to answer a question that has already been adequately explored. And there's also no point in reaching your own interpretive conclusions without taking into account what others have already studied and argued. You would lack credibility and appear naive and uninformed if your analysis has already been convincingly put forth or refuted. The Scholarly Review consists of an introduction, summary of scholarly sources, a discussion and evaluation of the sources (including scholarly disputes and unresolved questions or issues), and a conclusion in which you put forth your own potential original research question that you intend to pursue and that you believe will contribute something new to the available understanding on the topic. A minimum of five scholarly sources (peer-reviewed academic journal articles or chapters from scholarly books) are required for this essay.
Final Research Article (8-10 pages): In this final essay, you will put all the pieces together, including sections with shortened and revised material from your Background Essay and Scholarly Review. However, this essay is designed to showcase your original contribution to the available understanding of your narrowed research topic based on the real-world problem and research question you have identified. You will develop an interpretive argument based on the research you have done, including a thoughtful and substantial claim, reasons and evidence, acknowledgments and responses to various views and sources, and a consideration of any underlying assumptions (warrants) in your argument. A minimum of four additional NEW sources are required for the Final Research Article.