Research essay

“I want to be part of the conversation of our time, but I don’t want to be just another voice in the long argument. I’d like to say something either that’s fresh or something that comes at the subject with a slightly different angle.” ~Richard Rodriguez

Research paper. Beginning writers and researchers often cringe at these words. Some students recall note cards and dull topics and the dreaded task of “padding” their papers with fluff because their ideas ran cold. Other students have never written research papers, and the prospect feels intimidating. However you come to the Essay 3 assignment, you will gain more from the process if you are invested in your argument and genuinely interested in a topic that matters. If you are not invested in a topic, how can you expect your readers to care?

But what sorts of public discourses are appropriate starting points for this essay? Before you decide on a topic, it is important to grasp what successful argumentative research topics “look” like. Browse the “Additional Resources for Topics” link below for some examples. As you will see in these links, a wide variety of resources are available, but for the purposes of this lesson and research assignment, we will focus on a topic resource titled They Say/I Blog, which updates its readings monthly and includes a space where students can discuss current arguments: This resource explores topics as varied as fast food, higher education, popular culture, sports, and the American Dream. Pay particular attention to the They Say/I Blog readings listed under “Categories,” and note the student responses to each reading. You will join one of these blog conversations later in this lesson.

Study tip: The most  effective topics effective topics – Alternative Formats

for Essay 3 rarely concern highly controversial issues like abortion, gun control, and the death penalty. Certainly such subjects are important, but your readers are likely to have strong, firm feelings about these kinds of emotionally-charged issues. Choose research topics that do not garner such polarized responses from readers, and remember that you must be able to address your topic with adequate depth and clarity in the span of pages alloted for the assignment.

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