Essay #4 – Research Proposal and Final Paper

Your completed PROPOSAL should include:

  • A one-page, double-spaced description of your topic, the side of the issue you plan to take, what initially drew you to the topic, what personal connection (if any you have with the topic).  Your first paragraph  must include a clear and well-reasoned Thesis Statement.  
  • An annotated bibliography with at least four sources that will be helpful to you as a researcher.
  • All four sources must come from the UAF Library Databases. One visit to a reference librarian will save you lots of search time if you're feeling confused about how to use the databases. For each source, make an MLA Works Cited or APA Citation entry. After each entry write a paragraph summarizing the source's main argument and describing what it offers to you as a researcher.
  • Please do not choose the following topics: abortion, gay marriage, global warming, capitol punishment, and the legalization of marijuana.

The final research PAPER will be:

  • 6-8 typed and double spaced pages in length, and should include citations from at least 6 different sources (at least 4 of which are from the library's database of scholarly articles).  These should appear as in-text citations with a Works Cited page at the end.  Please remember that all in-text citations should be identified by clear signal phrases. See  A Writer's Reference  (MLA section)  for specific information on how to write signal phrases. The Works Cited page does not count toward your 6-8 pages.  You may use either MLA or APA formatting, but be sure to be consistent throughout your paper.
  • If you like, you can  turn in a  complete  rough draft of your research paper and I will provide feedback.  


A research paper is the culmination and final product of an involved process of research, critical thinking, source evaluation, organization, and composition. It is, perhaps, helpful to think of the research paper as a living thing, which grows and changes as you explore, interpret, and evaluate sources related to a specific topic. Primary and secondary sources are the heart of a research paper, and provide its nourishment; without the support of and interaction with these sources, the research paper would morph into a different genre of writing (e.g., an encyclopedic article). The research paper serves not only to further the field in which it is written, but also to provide you with an exceptional opportunity to increase yourr knowledge in that field.

It is also possible to identify a research paper by what it is not.  A research paper is not simply an informed summary of a topic by means of primary and secondary sources. It is neither a book report nor an opinion piece nor an expository essay consisting solely of one's interpretation of a text nor an overview of a particular topic. Instead, it is a genre that requires one to spend time investigating and evaluating sources with the intent to offer interpretations of the texts, and not unconscious regurgitations of those sources. The goal of a research paper is not to inform the reader what others have to say about a topic, but to draw on what others have to say about a topic and engage the sources in order to thoughtfully offer a unique perspective on the issue at hand.

Argumentative research paper:  The argumentative research paper consists of an introduction in which the writer clearly introduces the topic and informs his audience exactly which stance he intends to take; this stance is often identified as the  thesis statement. An important goal of the argumentative research paper is persuasion, which means the topic chosen should be debatable or controversial. For example, it would be difficult for a student to successfully argue in favor of the following stance.

  • Cigarette smoking poses medical dangers and may lead to cancer for both the smoker and those who experience secondhand smoke.

Perhaps 25 years ago this topic would have been debatable; however, today, it is assumed that smoking cigarettes is, indeed, harmful to one's health. A better thesis would be the following.

  • Although it has been proven that cigarette smoking may lead to sundry health problems in the smoker, the social acceptance of smoking in public places demonstrates that many still do not consider secondhand smoke as dangerous to one's health as firsthand smoke.

In this sentence, the writer is not challenging the current accepted stance that both firsthand and secondhand cigarette smoke is dangerous; rather, she is positing that the social acceptance of the latter over the former is indicative of a cultural double-standard of sorts. The student would support this thesis throughout her paper by means of both primary and secondary sources, with the intent to persuade her audience that her particular interpretation of the situation is viable.


Getting Started

There is neither template nor shortcut for writing a research paper; again, the process is, amongst other things, one of practice, experience, and organization, and begins with the you properly understanding the assignment at hand. Here's a general outline of how to get started:

  1. Choose your topic and submit the research proposal.
    • You are free to choose any topic you like, as long as it relates in some way to science, technology, or nature. Feel free to email me if you have questions about a proposed topic.
    • Please avoid politically divisive topics, such as  abortion, gay marriage, global warming, capitol punishment, and the legalization of marijuana.
    •  Remember to be as SPECIFIC as you can!   That will help a ton as you start to write.
    • Once you have a topic in mind, begin gathering your resources and write the proposal, as outlined above.
  2. Research
    • You are free to use any credible sources on your topic, either in print or online. If you are stuck, visit the library on campus and ask a librarian to help search for articles on your topic in the online database.
    • Carefully keep track of the sources you are citing, and be mindful of the logos, pathos and ethos of each piece you choose to use. Always introduce the writer in a good signal phrase, and analyze the quotes from the perspective of your thesis statement/argument.
  3. Outline
    • This can be SUPER helpful.   Organize your paper into sections, and work on each one at a time.
  4. Draft
    • Don't leave this until the last minute!   Drafting should begin about halfway through the process.
    • Be mindful of proper manuscript form, MLA style formatting, grammar, spelling and tone.
    • Think about your audience (other than me). Will they be aware of technical terms or industry language (if not, make sure and explain it).
  5. Revise
    • This is arguably the most important step in the process. Leave yourself several days to go back over your work and refine it.
    • If you're not confident in your grammar/construction, make a visit to the UAF writing center for help.
    • If you have time and would like me to look at an early draft, I'm happy to!
  6. Submit to your dropbox folder by the deadline.