281 Research Tips Spring 2022
Note to students in 281: This is the file I plan to project when discussing your term papers and comparative book reviews. Some of the links (particularly the longer ones) may not work outside of my computer, but you can see the links to libraries and databases that I used. In the real classroom, I could quickly click on one link after another while discussing them, but that doesn’t work as easily online. You can do that yourselves on your own computers. You will probably have to learn through trial and error, just as I did. And, when we begin discussing paper projects, I will reserve time in class for your questions.
Term paper: Instructions from the syllabus:
“Course requirements include … a research paper or a comparative book review (comparing at least two books not already among the required readings).
Students must consult* with the instructor about research topics or books to review. A tentative choice of books or topic for the paper must be emailed to the instructor by April 1, with a copy to Turnitin.com. It should be well written and should explain why you chose the topic, what questions you seek to answer, and some key sources that you have located in your bibliographic search. I strongly encourage submission of topics before the deadline. The emailed copy should be written in or pasted into the body of the email, not attached to it. The research paper or book review will be due on May 13. The paper must be emailed to me and also submitted in e-file through Turnitin.com, according to the instructions posted on Blackboard. I will read and offer comments on a complete (i.e., not hasty or partial) first draft of the term paper if it is submitted by April 12. You will have a week to revise the paper after I return it.”
*Consulting me about your term papers can be by email or by Zoom office hours.
Please remember to include the course number, 281, in the subject line of emails to me, so that I don’t miss your messages. If for some reason I don’t reply to your message in three weekdays, please send it again, making sure it has 281 in the subject line.
Basically, the proposal, about a page plus bib, should include:
1, Paper title that shows the topic.
2, Brief narrative or description of the problem to be researched, indicating what interests you about it.
3, Main logic of the process that you expect to find in research. [Thesis statement.]
4, Bibliography giving some sources, including publisher and date of publication.
In summary, the emailed proposal should be written in or pasted into the body of the email, not attached to it. The research paper or book review will be due on May 13. The paper must be submitted via email attachment in MS Word and also in an electronic copy via Turnitin.com. I will read and offer comments on a complete (i.e., not hasty or partial) first draft of the term paper if it is submitted by April 12.
Length, citation, and formatting standards for papers for this class:
In a 200-level class, the comparative book review (single spaced) is usually 3-5 pages, and the research paper (single spaced) is 5-10, with most (hopefully, from my perspective) at the lower end of that range. The research paper is longer because it requires you to gather and present evidence and then do the analysis of it. It’s analogous to a science-course lab report, where you gather and present all the data and then come to a conclusion. A comparative book review is shorter because you just do the analysis with only a very concise summary of the books, not a lengthy summary of them. The time spent on the two types of projects should be about the same, even though there’s more writing in the research paper.
For a research paper, students should use a minimum of 6 sources, and often more. Students should feel free to use, and to cite, any relevant high quality sources including sources on the syllabus or mentioned in class, NGO reports, good blog posts, and reliable media (i.e., not the supermarket Star). It is your responsibility to assess the reliability of the sources.
All citation standards (Chicago, MLA, etc.) are acceptable to me as long as they are used consistently and provide complete documentation of sources, including publisher or journal and date.
Here, from the writing tipsheet on the syllabus, is a concise description of a book review: Consider the argument of a book review. In most cases, monographic studies address a debate in their discipline. They take a position that accepts, illustrates, and perhaps refines the prevailing wisdom (dominant paradigm) in the field, or they criticize that prevailing wisdom and present data to support an alternative explanation of the phenomenon under study. Reviewers should present the main point or argument of the book or books they treat, along with their evaluation of the arguments, logic, evidence, coherence, and clarity of the book or books. Student reviewers should be able to reread their reviews two years after writing them and effectively recall the key ideas and substance of a book, as well as their evaluation or criticism of it.
Papers should be in Times New Roman font, 12 point type, single spaced. Pages should be numbered, and bibliographies should be in alphabetical order.