Research Paper

1.   Your paper will be 10 full pages, including footnotes.  Not 9, not 11.  Why 10 pages, you ask?  It is actually harder to write a 10 page paper than it is to write a 15 or 20 page paper.  You must be clear and avoid the filler that is often contained in longer papers.  What is filler?  Filler is extra “stuff” that just fills pages but adds little or no value to your paper.

2.   Introduction (10%):  Your introduction will not be longer than two pages.

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3.   Thesis Statement: (10%):  Immediately after your introduction, you must present a clear thesis statement.  In simplistic terms, a thesis statement is the main point of your paper that tells the reader what you intend to argue later in your paper.  You must word your thesis statement, as follows:  “My thesis statement is . . . .”  The thesis statement should not be longer than two sentences, and normally one is sufficient.

4.   Road Map (5%):  Immediately after your thesis statement, you must provide a clear road map to let the reader know where you are going with your paper.  Word your road map, as follows:  “My paper will first briefly explore . . . , followed by . . . .   Finally I will defend my thesis by . . . .“  Your road map should be only a few sentences, but it must be clear.

5.   Background (10%):  Next, provide a brief but clear background of your topic.  This may only be one page or less.

6.   Argument/Defending Your Thesis (50%):  Now we are at the meat of the paper, defending your thesis statement.  This must be at least five full pages, and you must use your research to defend your thesis.  This is the hardest part of your paper, and this is where you need to focus your time and energy.  Why?  This is where students fail in their Capstone theses (I don’t mean literally fail, but they lose a lot of points).  Students either present poor arguments or they present no arguments at all.  You will present clear arguments, supported by your research, to defend your thesis.  Last three points in this area — (1) Conclusory statements must be supported with your research; (2) Do not use provoking language which amounts to merely an opinion, such as:  “Those who support capital punishment are idiots.”  (This actually came from a student); and (3) You need to fill in glaring gaps.  For example, one student’s entire thesis argued that the separation of church and state clause in the Constitution was misinterpreted by the Supreme Court and that religion should be in schools, government, etc.  The glaring gap was, given the student’s arguments, what did the separation clause mean?  This was not addressed.

7.  Conclusion (5%):  Conclude your paper in one page or less.
Finally, a few other points:
1.   Grade:  The grading rubric for each section of your paper is highlighted above (in yellow).  As you can see, 50% of your paper is the argument section, which is why I say it is your main focus.
2.   References/Proper Use of The Bluebook OR APA (10%):  You must use a minimum of 15 scholarly references.  You may use a reference more than once, but it still only counts as 1 of the 15.  Scholarly references are not Wikipedia, blogs, or crazy websites.
3.   Formatting:  Double space your paper and use a 12 point font of your choice.  Do not include a title page, abstract, endnotes, or bibliography/reference page. 
4.   Topic:   Choose a topic of interest to you.  If you don’t feel passion for the subject matter, choose another topic.

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