Getting Started




Research Topics

Library Guide

Citing Sources

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Weeks 1-2
Jan 3 - 12

English 127
Research Writing

Welcome!  In these first two weeks, we will "orient" ourselves, making certain that we understand the course procedures, the course objectives, as well as something about the philosophy with which I teach this course, and you will do readings from our two textbooks to begin to explore the writing process and arguments.

I know that there is a lot of material on this website, which can seem overwhelming.  Don't feel that you have to read it or process it all at once!  Hang in there, and just work through the different steps in the right sequence, and you should be in good shape.

By Wed, Jan 3

Carefully read the Orientation: Getting Started and Syllabus pages (also links on the left bar of this website, which means that you can reach them from anywhere on the website). The "Syllabus" represents our contract for the course and lists the course objectives, the weight of individual assignments, grading policies, etc.  Also print and look over the Schedule page, which has links to the weekly schedule pages and major assignments, and is the main page through which you will gather information about our units as we go along.  While you may browse through the other pages on this site by following the links on the left, don't get overwhelmed with information overload!  We will work through the research and writing processes step by step.  Note that some of these links, especially on the Questions page, are under construction and may not therefore may be revised as we go or may not always be "live."

Introducing Our Textbooks, Part A

The Craft of Research (CR):  The book is published by the University of Chicago Press, an academic rather than a textbook publisher.  The significance of this detail may not be immediately obvious, but it means that this book is not just written for students.  The book is designed to be used by researchers at all levels, from beginning freshman writers to advanced researchers who are working on their Ph.D.'s, publishing scholarly papers in academic journals (specialized periodicals published two-six times a year where all articles have to be approved by other experts in the field), or designing book-length scholarly projects.  Hopefully, the tone of the book -  the fact that it doesn't speak down to you - will encourage you to take yourselves seriously as writers and researchers.  The book covers such areas as the purpose of research writing; your relationship with multiple audiences; thinking about topics in terms of research questions, problems and sources; the elements of an argument; and drafting and revising in the writing process.  

Read CR, "Prologue" (pp. 3-8), "Ch. 1: Thinking in Print" (pp. 9-15).

Read the Writing Notebook/Journal webpage.  Go out and get a notebook if you don't have one already! 

By Thu, Jan 4

What are the Social Sciences?  What does it mean to write for them?  Read the Social Science Disciplines webpage.  Here are some questions to think about and mull over, though you don't have to answer them just now.  What have been your attitudes towards knowledge?  Had you thought about human knowledge being organized according to disciplines, which themselves are placed under broad categories like the Humanities and the Social Sciences?  What might be the consequences of this kind of classification?  Can you think of any dangers or limitations of thinking about knowledge production this way?  Who is granted authority in this scheme?  Are there risks that some voices get excluded or marginalized?  Think about how knowledge is produced through research.  What problems do you think might occur as researchers try to gather and interpret data in order to make truth claims about the social world?

Introducing Our Textbooks, Part B

Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing (RA):  This is a "reader" that we will be using for the first two-thirds of the course and to which we will refer later in the quarter as well.  I have chosen this textbook because, unlike many other readers that are used in college composition courses, there are a number of scholarly articles that are longer and more complex and difficult than articles that one might run into in a weekly or monthly magazine.  Many of the included essays first appeared in scholarly books or academic journals, and therefore have rigorous forms of support and documentation.  The thematic focus of the book, "rereading America," asks you to think critically about a number of American "myths":  the model family, education as empowerment, the equality of individual opportunity, various notions of gender, the melting pot conception of American culture and society, the relationship between church and state, and the idea of freedom.  Because many of the essays challenge some deeply held beliefs, you may find yourself at odds with the conclusions they are reaching, but you will hopefully respect the difficulty and importance of the work involved in entering into informed and well-reasoned conversation about these vexed issues. 
          While our course is not limited to these broad subject areas - for example, you can choose from many other research topics for your final project - this textbook does give us a means of understanding what academic research, evidence, interpretation, and debates look like.  We will be reading articles to examine and interrogate how their research and arguments have been put together.  Browse through the book to see which topics and articles catch your attention.  You may wish to read some articles even if they are not assigned.  Also, pay attention to and reflect on the various collections of images under the headings "Visual Portfolio."  Note that the last paper for this class, the Final Research Article, will require you to cite (quote or refer to) one essay/chapter from Rereading America, so be on the lookout for good candidates as you browse through this reader during the quarter. 

Read RA, "Thinking Critically, Challenging Cultural Myths" (pp. 1-14).

Read the Assignments webpages to get an idea of how the various assignments and essays relate to one another. 

Notebook Exercise 1a (not to be posted):  After reading the Assignments webpage, brainstorm many possible topics that may be relevant to you or that you might like to learn more about.  These potential topics should be under the broad umbrella of the Social Sciences and focus on issues within the United States.  Make a list of at least twelve topics, with at least three that come from each of these categories:  1) your personal background and experience, including your community; 2) your current or future educational or professional goals; 3) cultural issues of concern; and 4) current events, politics and policy debates.  Prohibited topics include abortion, gun control, death penalty, legalization of drugs, assisted suicide, religion, evolution, cloning, smoking, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, sex education, global warming, videogame violence, school prayer, and obesity.  *You can look ahead to the Research Topics webpage for further explanation. 

By Fri, Jan 5

Forum Posting 1a:  This is your first forum posting.  See the Discussion Forum page for instructions (note that you will go to GRC's Canvas site and sign in to use this feature).  I recommend that you compose your forum assignments in a separate Word document that you save on your hard drive or disk since web-based functions can crash while you are trying to do write; once you compose your message in a Word document, you can then "select" the text you want to post (ctrl-A is the shortcut key for the "select all" function), "copy it" (ctrl-C), switch over to the forum window (which can be open simultaneously) and "paste" (ctrl-V) the copied text in the forum. 

Read "The Myth of Education and Empowerment" (RA, pp. 100-104)

Part A:  Having read the introductory material from our textbooks over the last couple of days, reflect on your past experiences with critical thinking, research and/or writing.  If you feel comfortable sharing such an experience, describe a time when you felt compelled or motivated to question or challenge commonplace thinking (based on mainstream media, family, or school, etc.) about some social issue.  What brought you to the point of question?  How did you proceed?  Were you prompted to do research (even informally rather than in order to write a report)?  How did this experience affect your overall thinking?  Any other results?  If you can't think of anything or if you'd rather not share your experience publicly (perfectly understandable!), comment on what seems useful or interesting about our textbooks, as explained in the introductions. (200-300 words in essay form, which means that you should use complete sentences and organize your thoughts in more than one paragraph)
Part B:  Choose one possible topic from your brainstorm list in Notebook Exercise 1a (NE1a), and write at least one paragraph explaining why you’re interested in the topic, what aspects appear particularly important to you, and what you hope to learn. 

*Respond to each others' posts with substantial comments (at least 100 words).  What can you relate to?  What made you think of new angles?  Anything you disagree with (make sure you are respectful in your disagreements).  At least one response to a classmate is required by Mon, Jan 8; pick a post that has not yet received a response.

By Mon, Jan 8

Read and do the exercise on the Writing Style and Identity page in your notebook.  What do you realize about yourself as a writer?  What kind of writer would you like to be?

Read "The Myth of Individual Opportunity" (RA, pp. 346-349)

Read the Research Topics webpage if you have not already done so.  What topics are grabbing you?  Go to the Holman Library Class Guide for this course to find research tools to help you explore topics.  While you may certainly surf the web for topic ideas and preliminary information, whether using google, wikipedia or other websites, for the first paper you will primarily be using the following three source types:  online and print references; books or book chapters; and magazine articles. 

By Tue, Jan 9

Read Writing Summaries webpage (mini-lecture; click on link)

Read "Myths of Gender" (RA, pp. 464-468); Michael Kimmel, “'Bros Before Hos': The Guy Code” (RA, pp. 540-549). 

Notebook Exercise 2a (not to be posted):  Mark up any article that you read.  This can include underlining important passages, posing your own questions and comments in the margins, identifying points or areas that you agree and disagree with, noting passages that you might want to quote if you were to use this article in your own writing, etc.  As and/or after you read the article, jot down any issues, questions or insights that strike you in your notebook. 

Forum Posting 2a:  For this forum posting you will be posting two paragraphs on Kimmel's article. 

Paragraph 1 After reading the Writing Summaries webpage, post a 200-250 word summary on Kimmel's article.  Take some time and care in writing this summary since you will need to have mastered this skill for future work in the course.
Paragraph 2
:  Write a 100-150 response to one key aspect of the article, providing support for your claims and interpretations.  For example, if you disagreed with something, explain why or what was missing from the author's analysis.  Or if you found something compelling or illuminating, indicate what is new or provocative about the author's research or claim. 

By Wed, Jan 10

Read CR, “Ch 3 From Topics to Questions” (pp. 33-48).  This section of CR will guide you to think about YOUR topic and research question, but it will also help you consider how OTHER writers, such as those whose articles we are reading in Rereading America, are defining their research questions.  Keep in mind that having a topic is a very small step in the process of researching; the truly significant step, even early in the process, is figuring out what piece of the topic you're going to tackle (narrowing your topic) and what you're trying to find out about that narrowed topic (your information and research questions). 

Read “Visual Portfolio: Gender” (RA, pp. 515-521); Aaron H. Devor, “Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meanings of Gender” (RA, pp. 471-480)

Forum Posting 2b1) Following CR, Ch. 3, identify Devor’s topic and how he has narrowed it.  2) Make a list of at least five questions that Devor is trying to answer in order of importance.  3) Discuss the significance of at least two of those questions (by asking “So what?”).  4) Applying Devor's analysis, discuss one the photographs in the visual portfolio (RA, pp. 515-521); include the page number and a brief description of the photograph before discussing it.

*By the next class period respond to questions #3-4 in one of your classmates' postings.  Choose a post that hasn't yet received a response. 

By Thu, Jan 11

Read the Background Essay assignment guidelines if you have not already done so (again, if necessary review the Assignments page to see how the three major papers fit together).  As you do your preliminary research on your topic, be on the lookout for relevant history, court cases, legislation, statistics, a range of different stakeholders involved, organizations, programs, along with the debates or disagreements that may surround your research topic/question.  Note that you will need at least five sources for your Background Essay from the following three source types:  reference sources, magazine articles, and books or book chapters.  Watch this video on the Information Cycle, and also go through IRIS's Types of Information to get a better idea of the different source types that you will run across.

Although I asked you to brainstorm possible topics last week (Notebook Exercise 1a), continue the brainstorming process.  Are some possible topics standing out more than others?  Are you naturally drawn to some aspects of a topic more than others (how you would narrow the topic)?   Because it is likely that your research topic choice, how you're narrowing it, and the information and research questions you ask will evolve or even change completely, the earlier you begin exploring possible topics, the better.  Again, see the Research Topics webpage and "Quick Tip: Finding Topics" (CR, pp. 49-50)

See the Holman Library Class Guide for this course for research tools and suggestions.  Also, see CR, “Ch. 5: From Problems to Sources” (pp. 65-84). 

Notebook Exercise 2b (not to be posted):  Choose two or three possible narrowed topics from your brainstorm lists, and use the following Reference tools from the Holman Library Class Guide to begin exploring them:  CQ Researcher and Gale Virtual Research Library.  Do seven-minute freewrites on at least two topics AFTER you have consulted the reference tools and/or done some browsing and surfing using google.com or any other electronic resources.  Look ahead to the "Topic Proposal" due on Thu, Jan 18.

Note on searching:  As you hunt for sources and ideas relating to your topic, you will use various research tools, including google, book catalog, Proquest, etc.  You will need to try a variety of possible search terms relating to your topic.  Check out IRIS's page on Search Strategies for suggestions. 

By Fri, Jan 12

Read CR, “Ch. 14: Incorporating Sources" (pp. 200-213).  Please note that most of the examples of quotations and paraphrases in this chapter of CR do NOT follow the American Psychological Association (APA) citation format, the format that is common in the social sciences and the one which we are using in this class.  For more detailed information specifically about APA in-text citations, see:  https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/02/.

For this forum posting, pay special attention to the purpose of quotation (or paraphrase), punctuation, how page numbers are listed, and how quotations need to be integrated into your sentences grammatically.

Read "The Myth of the Model Family" (RA, 16-28); “Visual Portfolio: American Families” (RA, pp. 54-60); Stephanie Coontz, “What We Really Miss About the 1950s” (RA, pp. 25-40).

Forum Posting 2c:  For this forum posting, identify five different passages from Coontz’s article that you may directly quote (CR, 14.2, pp. 201-202): 

  1. Drop in one quotation with a few identified words (signal phrase), such as "According to Author's Last Name [followed by year of publication], ...." 

  2. Use an explanatory statement (see second example in 14.2) to setup the second passage. 

  3. Choose one passage that you weave into the grammar of your sentence (3rd example, CR, p. 201). 

  4. Quote one passage, again including an interpretive setup statement or signal phrase, that you modify with ellipses and/or brackets (4th example, CR, pp. 201-202). 

  5. Use one passage to engage in brief dialogue with the author, either because you agree or disagree with something, or because you want to use that passage to go in a new direction. 

  6. Using the strategies of setting up and commenting on passages in questions 1-5, write one or two sentences in which comment on some aspects of one of the pictures in the visual portfolio (RA, pp. 54-60).