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Humanities LibreTexts

14.1: Assignment: Research Essay

  • Page ID
    22700
  • Research Essay (700-1000 words)

    ENG 095/111

    Learning Outcomes

    Students will learn how to

    • identify and explore a specific topic in depth.
    • expand and complicate their own thinking and experiences with the topic through an exploration of various other perspectives.
    • evaluate and synthesize these various perspectives to arrive, at the end, at a specific thesis.
    • Identify and incorporate 2-3 outside resources

    Characteristics of the Exploratory Essay

    A successful essay
    • provides an introduction that offers the reader background information and leads to a question or focus that will be explored or analyzed.
    • adopts an inquiring and objective tone by the use of third-person voice  (first-person point of view is appropriate when describing personal experience).
    • uses concrete details and examples, including quotations/paraphrases from sources, as designated by the instructor, as well as the student’s own observations.
    • Incorporates outside resources using proper MLA format including a works cited page.

    Topic 1: Subcultures within Cultures

    One way to analyze “culture” is to characterize it by its shared set of values, goals, and practices. By extension, Dobb defines “subculture” as the “culture of a specific segment of people within a society, differing from the dominant culture in some significant respects, such as in certain norms and values” (qtd. in Spann 315). For example, one could argue that NASCAR fans constitute a specific subculture among sports fans in general. Spann goes even one step further by describing possible subcultures among NASCAR fans themselves.
    For this topic, explore a specific “subculture” within Southern culture by identifying its common values, interests, and goals as well as by analyzing its (complementary or antagonistic) relationship to the larger community.

    Some subcultures to consider:

    • Greek life
    • Nascar
    • Rodeo
    • Gun Ownership
    • Religion
    • White supremacists
    • Rednecks

    Primary Exploration

    • Carefully consider the following questions:
      • Identify a few subcultures and reflect on how they emerged.
      • What are the identifying values and goals of some of the subcultures you have identified?
      • What is the make-up of these subcultures in terms of class, age, race, and gender?
      • What differences exist between the members of these subcultures and the culture at large? How do these differences manifest themselves?
      • What other facets of culture (clothing, music, food, etc.) are typical of this subculture?
      • What TV shows or movies do you know that portray a specific subculture? What do you believe is the principal goal or message of this TV show or movie?
    • Discuss the topic with a friend, co-worker, family member, whose class, gender, ethnicity, age, or other differences may provide a fresh perspective on the topic from your own.
    • Explore sources from BHCC library.

    Topic 2:  It’s a Family Tradition

    Traditions can be created by our surroundings and background.  The family home, the town and area in which we grow up, the places we travel to, the shopping malls in which we hang out, and the virtual spaces we visit—all these places have an impact on the person we become and the values we cherish. In the South, like in all other cultures, there are some traditions that have been taking place for decades.

    For this topic, explore a Southern tradition and its implications on Southern culture or its role in American culture. You may also consider looking at a tradition that no longer exists.

    Some traditions to consider:

    • College Football/tailgating
    • Hunting as a rite of passage
    • Mud riding
    • Farming
    • Music
    • Dialect/accent
    • Crawfish Boils
    • Mardi Gras

    Primary Exploration

    • Carefully consider the following questions:
      • Identify a few traditions and research their history.
      • How did the traditions get started? By whom? Why do you think they still sustain today?
      • What differences exist between these traditions and traditions of other cultures? Are there similarities?
      • What do you want to know more about the tradition?
      • Are there traditions that have died out? Why are they no longer around?
    • Discuss the topic with a friend, co-worker, family member, whose class, gender, ethnicity, age, or other differences may provide a fresh perspective on the topic from your own.
    • Explore sources from BHCC library.

     

    One Possible Method of Organization

    Introduction

    • Create a lead-in “hook” to engage your readers’ interest (e.g., a striking quotation gleaned from your exploratory research, an anecdote or scenario, a related current event).
    • Provide brief background information to bring your readers up to speed: Why should readers care about this topic as a subject of inquiry? What relevance does it have to their lives today?
    • Provide a brief overview of different perspectives on the topic.
    • Present a focus question to stimulate your readers’ thinking.

    Body

    • Discuss each perspective or idea separately in one or more paragraphs.
    • Include transitions between your discussions of each perspective/idea.
    • Begin each perspective/idea with a clear topic sentence and conclude each with a closure/ clincher sentence.
    • Support all viewpoints with details and specific examples, possibly making use of comparison and contrast.

    Conclusion

    • Bring readers back to the focus question of your exploration.
    • Present your opinion or perspective on the topic (your thesis) and provide reasons for your opinion.
    • Show how your thesis has emerged from your interaction with the varying perspectives presented by your sources.

     

    This resource is available as a handout here.

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