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An Inquiry-Based Research Essay

Essay #2: An Inquiry-Based Research Essay on the Subject of Your Choice

Assignment Description

For this assignment, you will write a 8-10 page (2,000-2,500 words) research essay. The objective in developing this inquiry-based research essay is probably not like other research essays with which you may be familiar. In an inquiry-based essay, the development of a research question is the cornerstone of the essay, providing a guideline for you to follow your research wherever the information takes you. The careful formulation of a solid research question about your topic is crucial to ensure your inquiry will be effective. Once you have developed a question–and that question has been approved by your instructor–you’ll conduct research that will help you answer it.

In order to answer that question, we ask you to identify an article to serve as a model for the essay you are writing. Your essay will take on the general shape and contours of that model essay. You’ll perform a rhetorical analysis of your source article–its rhetorical situation, author, audience, tone, purpose, genre, medium, stance and language–as a way to mimic these aspects in the essay that you’ll write. Since each student’s model essay is unique, the essays each of you write will be different. Although all of the essays will be some version of a research essay, some will argue for particular positions, some will be explanatory or investigative in nature, and some will be intended to inform. Your sub-genre’s conventions–where the thesis goes and how it’s worded, how the claim/support structure is arranged, its visual presentation, and how it concludes–will determine, but not dictate, the arrangement of your own essay. Genres are socially agreed up methods of arrangement, but they’re flexible.

Once your research question is finalized, you will look for information that will help you explore and, perhaps, answer your question. Your aim here will be to make use of the research that you discover to help you to shape your essay. To do that, you’ll need to find a variety of sources that are relevant to your topic and read them carefully enough that you’ll be able to summarize their main points for use in your essay. You’ll want to be sure that you’ve included as least one opposing point of view.

The following types of sources must be incorporated into your essay:

  • At least 1 academic source (an article from a peer reviewed journal)
  • At least 3 popular media sources (social media, a website such as Vox, a newspaper or magazine)

Throughout the research process, you will write several short assignments in various genres. These genre assignments are designed to keep your research focused, to have you reflect on the research process and your sources so that you might better analyze them, and to help you present strong ideas in your essay. Each genre assignment is designed to help you through various stages of your research.

Have I

  • included at least one scholarly and three popular sources in my essay?
  • modeled my essay on an existing publication, adopting its genre conventions for my own essay?
  • completed the preliminary reflection, the research proposal, the report on research in process, and the final reflection?
  • applied citation style conventions in both in-text and end of text references?

Writing Genre #1: Research Topic Reflection

This reflection will be based on your topic exploration and initial research. You’ll reflect on what may have inspired the desire for further inquiry, including how you came up with the question, why it might be important, and how you plan to explore the question in your research. If you can’t decide on a single question at this point, write about the top three you have in mind. We’ll work together on narrowing your focus into one final research question, and we’ll evaluate examples of strong research questions.

Writing Genre #2: Research Proposal (1-2 typed, single-spaced pages)

The proposal should identify the specific, final research question that you determine based on your initial exploration/research. Your proposal should discuss the same ideas as the topic reflection, but should be a more finely tuned presentation of the question your research will explore. You will need to include:

  • Your research question with some context. What is it about this question that interests you? Why is it relevant to social justice or social action?
  • A timeline; by what point will you have completed research for secondary sources?
  • A description of your audience and the name of a publication and a model essay (with a URL, if relevant) for which your essay might be appropriate.
  • A bibliography of the work you have so far completed.

NOTE: This assignment is the last chance to change your research question. Once your proposal has been approved, the question you propose is final.

Writing Genre #3: Report on Research in Progress (1-2 typed, single-spaced pages)

In this report you will provide an update on your research in progress. You should provide the following information:

  • Discuss the sources you have found so far and analyze their credibility
  • Provide details about each source: how was each found, what makes it viable, and how you imagine each one effectively supporting your ideas
  • Identify a source you found while conducting your research but have discarded, and explain why you are excluding it
  • Discuss a source you are considering using, but about which you are still unsure, and explain your uncertainty
  • Identify what’s missing in your research, and speculate about information you are still seeking from additional sources

Writing Genre #4: Post-Essay Reflection

Your purpose in this assignment is to reflect on your most recent essay to demonstrate what you know about writing. If you can, you should also describe what you have learned about writing–what do you know about writing that you didn’t know in August?

Before you begin your essay, write a brief paragraph in which you identify your audience and the impact your audience has on your genre, language, and tone. Some possible audiences include next year’s entering students, a human resources department at an agency that hires communication specialists in your field, or the US Secretary of Education.

Address the various aspects of writing that we have practiced–generating thoughts, peer review (both in and out of class), research (finding sources and generating your own material through interviews and observations), synthesis (making connections between your ideas and the ideas in your research sources), your drafting process, and anything else that seems important to you.

Submission: Through Blackboard

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