The Research Paper Assignment Background and Description: For your final assignm

The Research Paper
Assignment Background and Description:
For your final assignment of the course, you will be required to write a formal research paper. Unlike a report, a research paper is a kind of argument, much as the literary critique and position papers you’ve done are kinds of arguments. Reports deliver facts, data, etc… without interpretation. Research papers, on the other hand, result from the researcher examining a wide variety of relevant documents, articles, theories, and so on from numerous sources, often across a spectrum of disciplines and then interpreting the information in such a way that an argument results.
The aim of the researcher is to analyze these many documents, assess them with regard to the research framing question being asked, and through this process, arrive at (an argument for) the best answer she/he can to that framing question. As a researcher, your job will not be to express an opinion on the subject matter you’re researching, but to advance an argument whereby you assert that the best answer/explanation in response to your framing question is ______________________, for reasons X, Y, and Z (you will have arrived at these reasons and your assertion [thesis] via the analysis of the various documents you’ll have examined). As with the previous papers you’ve written for this course, it will be necessary to make clear why your analysis/argument/research matters. That is, what is the wider and deeper significance of the work you’re doing and the conclusions you’ve reached?
Assignment Specifics:
The essential approach you will have to take for this assignment is first, to identify a particular, factual phenomenon (a supposed or assumed phenomenon is not sufficient; the phenomenon itself must be factual. You may need to do initial research to gather sufficient facts, data, etc… to confirm this factuality). This phenomenon will ideally or preferably be one that is surprising in some way, “counter-intuitive,” or otherwise unexpected. Once you have identified a phenomenon that interests you and that meets the above criterion, you will then want to ask the following question (your Framing Question):
What best explains or best accounts for ____________________________? This blank space would then be filled by a description of the phenomenon. For example, one might ask, “What best accounts for honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder?” Or “What best explains the United States’ rejection of the Metric System?”
In these examples, the fact of the phenomenon in question is rather unexpected (we don’t expect honey bee hives/colonies to be collapsing across wide regions in such an unprecedented way, and given the nearly universal adoption of the Metric System worldwide, we don’t (or shouldn’t) expect that the U.S. would be the lone holdout among major world economies).
Another important property we should note in these examples is that the answer to the relevant framing question is not obvious. You should avoid at all costs selecting a phenomenon with an obvious explanation. Here is an example of the kind of phenomenon and framing question you do NOT want: “What best explains the popularity of smart phones?” Answer: they’re convenient, useful, and entertaining. Can anyone really doubt that this is the answer to the framing question? *Note: an exception could be made in a case like this if you were to research a phenomenon whose explanation SEEMED obvious, but in actuality (according to your analysis and assessment) was not. Such exceptions, however, are, well, exceptional. Don’t plan on seeking and finding such a phenomenon to work on.
In order to pursue an answer to your framing question, you will have to do research. Lots and lots of research: more than you’ll actually need for the paper you’ll end up writing. That is, you’ll have to sift and wade through documents and information that may or will turn out to be redundant (though some confirmatory material is desirable); irrelevant; outdated; specious; exhibiting a problematic degree of bias; based on or exhibiting some logical fallacy/cies, such as faulty premises, invalid assumptions, and/or displaying faulty reasoning and conclusions; etc… You will essentially be looking for diamonds in sand dunes in your quest to answer your framing question as fully and comprehensively as possible. The diamonds are there, but you will have to work diligently to find them and to see them as such.
The ultimate goal and result of all this examination, sorting, analyzing and assessing will be the conclusions you draw. It is these conclusions that together will comprise your paper’s thesis. That is, the answer to your Framing Question IS your thesis statement.
Organizationally, your paper will be structured as something of a mirror opposite of the actual method you’ve used to arrive at your thesis. While your method may be visualized as an inverted pyramid, whereby you begin very broadly with your examination and analysis, and finally arrive at the “sharp point” of your thesis, in the actual composing of the research paper itself, you will present your thesis (the answer to your framing question) EARLY in the paper, likely toward the end of your introductory paragraph. You would then proceed to present the various reasons/points that you see supporting your thesis. More will be said about the various approaches and processes described above over the next few weeks.
*I will want to approve your paper topic (your choice of phenomenon and your Framing Question) before you begin work on the paper.
Your paper should be between 2,000 and 3,000 words, and is worth 35% of your course grade. 12-point font and one-inch margins. Please use MLA citation style. Consult the Syllabus for the due date for this assignment.

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