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English
Spring 2018

Academic Research Essay: Pursuing Formalized Curiosity

 
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”  ~Zora Neale Hurston
 
 
The phrase “academic research essay” often evokes memories of dreaded notecards, restrictive and uninteresting assigned topics, dead prose, and a plethora of rules about sources and documentation. Zora Neal Hurston’s quotation shifts this focus to the researcher’s interest in his or her research, where the motive of any kind of research, everyday or academic, is curiosity, the need and desire to answer a particular question. In addition, Hurston indicates that research is a process a person embarks on purposefully. A good research essay then is a lively inquiry into a question of interest to the author and of value to readers.
 
Your research essay will focus on this notion of “formalized curiosity”; you’ll develop a research question of personal interest and pursue your research into that question using a number of strategies for gathering, understanding, and evaluating different texts, developing this into a research proposal. You’ll share the answer to your research question in an essay addressed to a specific, academic audience. You’ll still have guidelines to follow to help you compose an academic research essay, but these will not focus on demanding you follow discrete, arbitrary rules but learn and practice strategies and conventions academics use to conduct research and make creative contributions to their disciplines.
 
 
Genre Issues
Use the following guidelines to help you compose in the genre of the research essay:
 

  • Focus on a researchable question you’re curious about
  • Have a thesis (or major claim) that answers your research question (note: your research question will evolve during invention practices like brainstorming and research)
  • Select and use sources appropriately
  • Use documentation appropriately and demonstrate an understanding of the relevant citation system whether MLA, APA, or CMS
  • Your final draft should be 1100– 1400 words

Guidelines

  • Select and narrow your topic to research
  • Engage in the practice of inquiry by starting from a question you or your potential readers might like asked about a topic
  • Engage academic essays and scholarly texts
  • Identify connections between this assignment and the personal essay, op ed/argumentative essay, and comparative rhetorical analysis to help you research, draft, and write
  • Begin to learn to use the library and its many resources
  • Practice revision techniques to hone your work to eliminate logical fallacies, along with problems of purpose, meaning, information, structure, and clarity and style

 
 
Evaluation
 
I will read your final draft to determine your success:
 

  • Answering (even tentatively) your research question—nothing wrong with speculative conclusions that raise more questions
  • Selecting and using sources appropriately
  • Engaging the genre of the academic research essay
  • Demonstrating an understanding of key course concepts, especially research process
  • Practicing conventions of grammar, punctuation, spelling as appropriate to the writing situation
  • Practicing conventions for documenting source use within the text and in a works cited or bibliography page
  • Effectively editing and revising your work for greater clarity, precision, and meaning

 
Deadlines: 
 
Proposal draft due in class 3/28; bring revised version to instructor meeting 3/29 or 3/30 (depending on what day you sign up for).
 
Final Draft due M 4/9 by 4 PM in my graduate student mailbox in the English Office. The mailboxes are to the left of the counter when you walk in. 
 

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