Honors English 298
The Research Essay Project
Washington State University
Delahoyde -- Fall 2014
Professional writers insist that "the aim of a research project is to make new
knowledge, not to reproduce old knowledge" (Hunt, Riverside Guide 424).
This last major writing assignment of the semester requires that you focus on
an idea, theory, or interpretation that you have, and this time to consider
also the written ideas of others who have explored, perhaps in a different
direction, the same or a similar subject. Focus on or continue onwards with
the topic of your first research essay, or start fresh with a new subject
with which you can zero in on some other unusual primary sources. Draw
from secondary sources only as they help contextualize or further your own
work. The project cannot serve as a report on information derived from
secondary sources; such a piece yields only a "mass of data that says
nothing" (419). Instead, you will explore an original idea you have; use
supporting information only to validate your points and help build
your own interpretation.
The Assignment: Think critically and analytically about a cultural
phenomenon. Your essay must serve as an analysis of a topic, not an argument
concerning a supposed controversy. You must identify an original topic or
idea, and avoid the hackneyed, pro/con, debate club, argumentative "issue"
yielding a report crammed with factoids. Take advantage of the opportunity
to tackle a subject that interests you obliquely instead of dutifully devoting
yourself to a subject you are obliged to understand for your major or for
another class. Fly with an original idea: an odd topic or cultural phenomenon
you notice and upon which you could become the leading expert. I will supply
I will be helping you with the project at all stages of its development, from
brainstorming to revising, through conferencing, class discussions, library
visits, peer workshops, and consultations, so that by the time you are ready
to submit the written piece and present your work to the class, I will be able
to respond constructively because I will be aware of what you have been trying
The Topic Pre-Proposal
You will receive a hand-out in class to fill out. It asks you some crucial
questions for your research pursuit as you begin generating ideas. This exercise
will launch your project by having you formulate a direction right away, even if
it is sketchy and tentative at this early stage. I will also be able to advise
you early if your topic needs further refinement and if your thesis needs to be
narrowed or made more explicit. I also may be able to supply you with some research
Due Date: Friday, October 17th.
After you have begun the project, you may decide on a somewhat different angle
for the research. But by this point, when you have a good idea of the nature of
the topic, you should be ready to commit to a program of research and writing on
your subject. At this time, you will turn in, as at least one full page of revised
writing, a typed proposal describing the topic and purpose of your paper, the
driving research questions, why your argument is worth making, your research
status or plans, and the sources (primary, secondary, and tertiary) you have
Due Date: Monday, October 27th. [1 page.]
Outline & Annotated Works List
At a certain point in the process, you should have completed the majority of
the research, have read your sources, and have thought through the project
reasonably well. At this point you will turn in a rough outline of the paper
and a typed, properly formatted, annotated Works list. The grade for this part
of the assignment will be based on how well the outline demonstrates careful
thinking on your part, how well you have tracked down valuable (appropriate
and recent) resources, how correctly you have compiled the printed version
of your Works list, and the quality of the annotations.
Due Date: Monday, November 10th. [2 pages.]
A full rough draft of the essay will be due for peer editing and for your own
careful polishing late in the process. The essay should be essentially complete,
double-spaced, with one-inch margins (right margin ragged, not justified).
Due Date: Monday, November 17th.
With the final version of your essay, you must turn in all significant freewriting,
proposals, outlines, and drafts that went into the creation of the paper. I cannot
accept a final essay for which I have seen no drafts in progress. I will be assuming
that this final version of the essay is the best work you are capable of and as the
culmination of a whole semester of intensive practice of writing skills. Thus, I
will be looking for the following when I read, and using these evaluative criteria:
This final piece ought to give you a sense of tremendous satisfaction and certify
you as an expert in some particular scholarly area!
- Does the paper have an effective introduction and an explicit and analytical
(not a factual or opinionated) thesis statement?
- Is the paper informative and interesting, written with consideration of a
general educated reading audience in mind?
- Are the collected resources integrated in such a way so as to advance the
writer's well-planned original thinking (or is there too much reporting of facts)?
- Is the documentation style correct?
- Is the writing stylistically effective and free of mechanics errors?
Due Date: Friday, November 21st. [8-10 pages.]