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Research Paper Guidelines
Description of Assignment
The purpose for the research paper is to increase your library research skills and
refine how to use the information that you have found. It also provides you with a solid
foundation to apply what you have learned about argument and its structure.
The subjects for the paper are open for you. However, there are some limitations.
You may not write about any of the following topics:
capital punishment/death penalty
gay marriage or gay adoption
violence in the media (including music, television, movies, and video games)
euthanasia (including the right to die and physician-assisted suicide)
legalization of marijuana
the Iraqi war or any other war
stem cells (cloning)
God (or other topic based on religion, about religion, etc.)
Da Vinci code
cell phone use
the impact of the media (on self-esteem or in any other way)
the wall at the border
technology (reliance on, taking over, etc)
Any conspiracy theories
Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”)
What does this leave? Believe it or not—lots of really cool topics, but you’ll need to
find a topic that is argumentative and researchable.
Before you complete your first assignment (Topic, Outline, and Annotated
Bibliography), you must get your topic pre-approved by sending an email with the subject
and specific topic oyu want to research. For example, the email should be something like
“I am interested in the subject of drugs. More specifically, I think I would
like to argue that if the country values keeping the population healthy, then we
need to create pharmacies more like those in Mexico where certain drugs (like
This email should provide a general direction you would like to take your research
paper topic. This direction can and will likely change as you move through looking for
sources, but the important aspect of this email is to gauge whether the topic is
argumentative from the beginning.
For example, if we take the same email and change it like this, problems might
“I am interested in the subject of drugs. More specifically, I think I would
like to argue that drugs are bad.”
The issue with the email above is that from the very beginning the topic is
unfocused in terms of an argumentative stance. All drugs are bad, including over-thecounter
drugs. In my personal interest, if I take aspirin or Aleve, I break out into an allergic
reaction which can cause my face to swell up and my throat to close up (leading to
breathing problems). The sooner that you determine a solid argumentative position, you
will have more time to get going on the rest of the assignments. More importantly, the need
to have your topic approved is intended to help you avoid working on a topic that isn’t on
the right track. Therefore, you must have your topic approved prior to completing the
Topic, Outline, and Annotated Bibliography.
Research Paper Format and Specifics—Final Draft
The research paper is to be a minimum of ten (10) pages long. Normally,
argumentative papers are around 12-15 pages long, not including your works cited page
(or references page) and appendix or graphs. The paper should be written in the following
format: typed, double spaced, 12-point font, in either Times, New York, Courier or Palatino.
The research paper should be written in 3rd person, standard language, not 1st person,
informal language. Your final paper should include the paper itself and a page with your
sources listed accordingly to MLA or APA documentation. The paper is to be written with
full MLA or APA documentation (You can’t earn a passing grade if you do not fulfill this
As far as sources, you need to have at least ten sources. Of those 10 sources, at
least 1 should be a book, at least 2 should be periodicals (magazines, journals,
newspapers), 1 court case, and the rest can be from any place you want (so as the
sources are reputable.). The best location for sources is the database articles within the
STC Library page. Should you have difficulty in finding a book or a court case, contact me
and I’ll see what I can find. The remaining six (6) sources should fit the qualifications
discussed in the chapter regarding support. You may use interviews, email correspondence,
Internet pages from legitimate sources, online news stories, government documents, and
anything else that is helpful. Any Internet websites need to get prior approval from me in
order to use them.
Sources you may not use:
If you need any help or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Often, students will decide to change topics in the last week before everything is due. You
do not have that flexibility. In the event that you are having difficulties, you must contact
If you make any changes on your subject from the time you send in your proposal to
the time you submit your rough draft, you must resubmit the same requirements for the topic,
outline and working bibliography. If you do not, I will not grade your paper. Also, if your final
paper does not match your rough draft, I will not grade it.
Under no circumstances can you wait to begin this major assignment. Don’t fall
behind and you won’t have a problem. In the past I made a face-to-face conference for
online students required. However, I have learned that this conference is a bit difficult for
students. Therefore, conference times will be made available and can be conducted online,
in person or via chat.
Process of Research Paper Completion
You will have a series of assignments due throughout the unit. Here’s a list of those
Topic, Outline, Working Bibliography
You must get your topic approved before you proceed any further. You may do so by
sending an email through Blackboard. For the paper, you are expected to take a position on
your topic since the paper has an argumentative focus. You will be required to expound
your own opinion (position or claim), and explain the reasons why you believe in your
position (support). The research paper should be your own discussion and ideas and not a
string of quotes with very little analysis or opinion from you. Keep this information in mind
while you are coming up with a topic. If the topic is informative, then the topic will not get
Once you get your topic approved, then you can begin on the Topic, Outline,
Working Bibliography assignment.
Requirements for Topic, Outline, Working Bibliography:
1. As a document, identify your topic and claims (major and minor) in a couple of
paragraphs. Provide an explanation as to why you would like to research the
topic. What do you know or not know about the topic? Also, what issues,
problems, and/or concerns do you have about the research paper, both
specifically and generally?
2. Turn in a preliminary outline following the Classical Model, Toulmin or Rogerian
Model of organization. Make sure that you fill in information that would lead one
to understand where you are going with your topic. You can adapt and adjust a
model to fit your topic or focus.
3. For your working bibliography, you need to turn in a least 5 entries with a brief
discussion of the main ideas covered and how you think the source will be
helpful within your paper. This is called an annotated bibliography. You’ll find
links for creating an outline and annotated bibliography within the unit.
An example will be provided at the assignments link where you will be turning in
this assignment and is also listed within the research paper unit.
Reading, MLA and APA Quizzes and Discussion Posting
To ensure that you understand the unit and that you know how to document,
paraphrase, summarize, and quote properly, you will have a number of quizzes assisting
you in learning how to do so. The logic behind these assignments is to provide you with an
opportunity to understand how to avoid plagiarism and how to properly complete the
research paper before having to complete a rough draft.
A rough draft will be turned in for general feedback for me. An electronic sign-up
sheet will be created with times including evenings and weekends for conferences.
Regardless whether the conference is online, over the phone, or face-to-face, you’ll be able
to have 1 hour dedicated to you for some help. The rough draft must include a “References”
or “Works Cited page,” depending if you are using APA or MLA documentation. In addition,
the rough draft needs to be at least 5 pages and include in-text citations. The more of a
draft that you have, the better it is since you will be able to make changes after the
conference and complete the paper easily.
Make sure to schedule the conference in a logical place in the writing process. For
example, if you are unsure about your progress, don’t wait for a conference towards the
end of the conference times and then find out that what you’ve written is all wrong.
Finally, make sure that you remember…if I don’t see a rough draft, I will NOT grade
your final draft, thus causing you to fail the class. If you run into ANY problems, see me
before this assignment is due. I would hate for you to mess the entire semester up because
of not turning in the rough draft.
Research Paper—Final Draft
Your final draft will be due by the deadline posted within the assignments link. You
will be turning in your resources electronically, so that if I have a question about something
you read, I’ll have access to the readings.
Most of your sources are likely to be (and ideally, should be) from the databases you
can access from STC or other types of electronic documents like legitimate websites that
have reports and other important documents. Therefore, you’ll simply upload PDF
documents, provide website addresses, and other info. For those resources that are not
electronic, you can upload a photograph or scan of the page that you used. In effect, if you
used a certain page from a book, you’ll take a picture/scan of the title page and a picture of
the page you used. That way, everything can still be turned in.