English 1520 devotes the final half of the semester to the major research project. It is made up of several small pieces – all required – and two very large pieces, the most important final essay worth 45% of the student’s final grade, and the sources that are used in that essay. The entire project is half the student’s course grade. The audience for the final essay is a general, college educated adult audience. Students who consult with the instructor first may select more specific audiences.

The first step to being successful is to consider the audience, the purpose, the spirit in which a topic is chosen, and the sources that are required.

The Purpose

The purpose is to argue a position on some part of an issue about which reasonable people are likely to disagree. To be an argument, the majority of the essay goes beyond the mere presentation of information or summary of opposing viewpoints; it is not like writing assignment two, because it has to do more than explain or define something. The purpose is not only to inform. The essay does not have be an extreme position or about a controversial current events topic or issue, nor does it need to aim to wholeheartedly change every readers’ position on the topic or argument. The readers will upon having read it should be able to say, “This essay makes a strong argument.”

The Topic

The topic is one of the student’s choice so long as it fits the spirit of inquiry, sources, and length requirements.


The Spirit of Inquiry and Logical vs. Emotional Appeal

Student researchers agree when choosing a topic to act in the spirit of inquiry (Says Who, pages 30-31) by choosing a topic and research question about which the writer can be opened to discovery. The topic should lend itself to logos (not pathos alone). If you don’t remember the meanings of ethos, logos, and pathos, return to Two Minute President Obama Ethos, Logos, Pathos Video and the So What and Who Says assignments.

The Sources

The topic is one for which reputable, academic sources can be found and used. Much of the material should come from peer reviewed, academic journals articles found in Find Articles/Databases, essay collections, and possibly books which are held in a college library (not local public library or found at Amazon or a local book store, or using a web/search engine/Google search). It is assumed students are using the OCC library though guest students and students concurrently enrolled in other colleges may use another college library; please inform me if you are using a library other than OCC’s no later than in your research proposal.


The Research Essay: Choosing Sources

Source Choices and Documentation System

8 scholarly sources from the two categories described here.

80% Scholarly Journal/Peer Reviewed/Academic Journals with the database noted (very often Academic Search Elite and Academic One File) on the MLA Works Cited Page. Note: Do not use Opposing Viewpoints or Pro/Con Databases for finding sources (though you might skim them to find topic ideas). Few if any academic topics would include the popular magazine sources (so avoid or use carefully General One File which often has these non-academic sources).

20% Books and Tertiary Reference Works; Newspapers. Any of the items in this category together should not be more than 20% of sources used: Textbooks or reference works (may be for introduction or background) found in a college library; New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal news articles, editorials, investigative pieces; book chapters (used in balanced fashion) if the book is found in a college library, and the authors have academic credentials. No paper should be too heavily based on one or two books, reference works, and/or newspaper articles (even in the other sources are each used once). Please do not use the Opposing Viewpointsbook series. These collections of articles often not college level resources such as popular magazine articles.

Additional sources that might be useful but do not count as part of the 8 required.

Primary Research (interviews and surveys), or reputable government (.gov), education (.edu) and/or organization (.org) web sites may be used in addition to but not instead of the above academic sources. Students are responsible for demonstrating an understanding of the So What and Who Says textbook material and for reviewing the credibility, credentials, timeliness, bias, and reliability of all sources in this category.

Help with finding sources and documentation format is available at OCC library on line portal. I can also help via email, chat, conference. Librarians love to help and they are the information experts. There is online library help as well as face to face help at the OCC library (at any college library).

Most people find proper documentation, also known as citation style, tedious – and it can be – but it is still a necessary required outcome for the class. Don’t save citing sources/using MLA format until the last minute.

Students are required to turn in annotated copies of sources. Don’t forget to save sources for any visuals too.

Students should save PDFs of all sources to a portable storage drive or hard drive (I recommend both) as they will be turned in with the final draft of the paper. Download PDFs. Save. For books, scan the original or a photocopy, or photograph if a small amount of material is used.

For each source, include the author, title, publication information page, and then, the page(s) used. Highlight the passages quoted, paraphrased, or summarized, handwrite (or type in a different font or color) the page number of the page in your essay where you used this highlighted passage – write or type it next to the highlighted passage. Then scan, photograph, or upload the annotated PDF. Without annotated sources, I cannot grade your final paper.


Specific Final Project Pieces

The specific project pieces include:

  • A research journal – the activities on described in the choosing a topic for your research project document. DONE
  • An annotated bibliography- described in a separate document.
  • A research proposal – described in a separate document.
  • A rough draft of part of the essay; a rough draft and a conference.
  • A final draft of the complete essay.
  • Copies of the actual sources (PDFs) used (download these and save to a hard drive or USB as you find sources for the paper).
  • A visual (powerpoint or infographic) to be shared with classmates in the last days of the course.



The Annotated Bibliography

DUE 11/13/16

The annotated bibliography asks students to conduct research and create a document that explains four of the best sources they have found so far for their final research project, and demonstrate how they are analyzing those sources. For this assignment, analyze four items you will likely use in your final project essay. A larger number of sources is required in the final paper, but only four items are to be analyzed in this annotated bibliography assignment. Quality is expected over quantity; the choice and use of sources for these second half of semester assignments is very important.

The four items analyzed for this assignment are to be chosen from three different categories unless the student uses all scholarly, academic journal articles. Some students may need to refresh their memories by returning to the week five Link to OCC Library Tour

The categories for choosing sources to use in the annotated bibliography are also the categories for choosing sources that students are to use for the research essay. For this assignment, please do not have more two items from the same category (no more than two books, reference works, newspapers, or government documents). One exception: It is always acceptable to use only academic/scholarly journal articles for all sources.

First Category: Scholarly Journal Articles.

These are often the best sources as they are respected by the academic audience, narrowed and focused, and more current than many books. They are indexed in the databases OCC subscribes to (represented by links from the main library web page: Find articles/databases). Most colleges and universities subscribe to the same databases though they may appear differently on different library web sites. If you are working in a college library other than OCC ‘s, simply contact me before using a database that OCC does not subscribe to and to let me know you are working in another college library. If you use the OCC library “search all,” the user can limit to scholarly peer reviewed and findings will be identified (“academic journal”) for instance.

Second Category: Books (chapters within them).

If not using all scholarly journals, you may use scholarly books from the Oakland Community College collection or the collection of another college or university. Only those fit this category. These may be books on a single subject from which you are likely to use a chapter or a few pages, or collections of articles or essays. Please do not assume works found in community public libraries will fit the scholarly definition and do not use Amazon or Google to find books. Note: Use of a volume from the Opposing Viewpoints book series is not acceptable because too often, these collections of various articles contain pieces of writing that are not academic.

Third Category: Reference Works.

If not using all scholarly journals, you may use Specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries like those we found for writing assignment two from the Gale Virtual Reference library. These are usually used on for introduction/background information. If in doubt, ask Prof. Leslie or a librarian. Do not include general dictionaries (Websters, Dictionary.com, etc) or general encyclopedias (Britannica). The library tour in week five included how to find reference works.

Fourth Category: Newspaper

Articles, editorials, and investigative pieces from the New York Times or Washington Post or in some cases, the Wall Street Journal are acceptable. Any other pieces are likely not academic enough. A local newspaper may be used only if appropriate to the topic, so it’s best to discuss that with Prof Leslie before using.

Fifth Category: Government Document (sometimes accessed through .gov web domains).

In some cases, audio or videotape from reputable documentary or news sources, reliable reputable web page material from education (.edu), government (.gov) and some non-profit organizations (.org) web sites may be appropriate to the topic, this assignment, and the final paper. These can be used in balanced fashion in the paper (alongside but not instead of more academic sources), but should not be analyzed for the annotated bibliography.

Analyzing Sources

Once you have chosen the items you will analyze, the following explains how to write the assignment.

  1. For each of four sources used for this assignment (more are required in the final paper), record the bibliographic information as you would on a Works Cited page entry in MLA format. Please use MLA only for this assignment. Caution: Bibliography generators (Easybib, Noodle bib, etc.) are often outdated or less than 90% correct. If you use one for convenience on any assignment, be sure to double check all entries against actual MLA format rather than assume they are correct. If your entries are wrong, there will be a grade deduction unless you can point to having recreated mistakes in a reputable source of MLA format recommended by me or the OCC library
  2. Skip a line, and write the two annotation paragraphs. For this assignment I prefer two paragraphs. The first paragraph gives a neutral four to six sentence summary of the topic, focus, thesis, and/or main ideas – a general, overall description of the content of the source.
  3. The second paragraph does a rhetorical analysis (six or more sentences). 1. How credible is the source – the writer/author and the publisher, being specific about what makes author(s) credible? Usually credibility is based on what his/her degree is in (education) and where he or she works (experience). 2. How current is the material given the subject? 3. Identify any obvious bias, attitude, or tone, giving an example in the form of a quote. 4. Who is the audience for the material and how do you know? 5. Does the item provide sources in text or bibliographical (does it have in text citations or references)? The annotated bibliography video in this unit demonstrates this process.
  4. Edit and proofread. Each entry ends up being at least a half of page single spaced (but seldom more than one page) total.

Here Is a Sample Entry

Jolliffe, David A. “Review Essay: Learning to Read as Continuing Education.” Rev. of Personally Speaking: Experience as Evidence in Academic Discourse by Candace Spigelman; Rhetorical Education in America by Cheryl Glenn, Margaret M. Lyday, and Wendy B. Sharer; Online Education: Global Questions, Local Answers by Kelli Cargile Cook, and Keith Grant-Davie, eds. CCC 58.3 (2007): 470-494.

Summary: Jolliffe writes this academic journal article to review three recent books, and acknowledges that state universities and private liberal arts college faculty are concerned about students who don’t read because they believe the instructor will cover the material in lecture, or because they can’t really grasp the complexity, or get beyond a transparent, superficial reading. He examines the “stumbling blocks that impede instructors and students and acknowledges that students haven’t focused on reading unless under the guise of critical thinking or study skills much since middle school, so instructors may need to remind them of how to read actively and effectively.

Analysis: Much of the work in these books is similar to what OCC’s academic literacy program created in 2006-2007, available in the Boynton Strategies for Teaching Academic Reading text. Joliffe is well respected Michigan State University Professor of Reading, and this work is current for this topic, despite being more than five years old, as the essay was published when this was a “hot” topic. His tone is always neutral and professional (“This work is important for all faculty” 478). It is meant for an academic audience because of the academic jargon used (such as formative assessment) and has an extensive bibliography on the teaching of reading.