Research paper | English homework help

Research Paper Assignment Sheet

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For your third paper assignment, you will use a primary source in an introductory paragraph to introduce your topic and develop a thesis. Then, you will support and develop your thesis claim by using outside research (secondary sources) to expand, illustrate, and/or supplement that claim. Like the other two papers that you’ve written this semester, your research essay must be an academic paper that provides an analysis of texts and develops an argument regarding an assigned topic. You are not writing an informative report but must instead develop an argument to support your thesis.

In your research paper, you will need to discuss one of the topics that you’ll find in the file that is attached below. The topics are taken from Topics for Discussion: Unit 4, so you should begin your exploration of them as you post responses for those discussion topics.

This essay should be 4-5 pages, not counting the Works Cited page (one-inch margins, typed and double-spaced). You will need to use MLA documentation (see MLA Documentation for Research Papers). Be sure to cite all quotations, paraphrases, and references to outside sources in proper MLA style. Include a Works Cited page as the final page of your paper (see pages 356-398 in your grammar handbook for tips and reminders).

You must use 3 secondary sources (found through your research) along with one primary source (from the assigned topics). Secondary sources can be found using TTC’s online databases (Infotrac, Biography Resource Center, Literature Resource Center, etc.).


The following topics will give you ideas for getting started, but you will need to narrow them to develop your thesis because the topics are broad.  You will need to decide what you think about the topic you choose and then develop an argument.  Personal experience is not acceptable as evidence in this assignment.

Topic I

Individual Liberty VS Social Equality

What is the relationship between individual liberty and social equality?  When-if ever-should one person’s individual rights be denied for the social good?  In your introductory paragraph, you should discuss Democracy in America to set up this topic. In the body of your paper, you will need to examine a current issue-smoker’s rights, gun control, drug testing, or affirmative action, for example-to discuss this issue.  Make sure, however, that your paper is not about that issue but instead relates that issue to the topic concerning individual rights and social equality.

Topic II

The Ideal America Vs the Real America

Discuss the relationship between the ideal America and the real America.  First, in your introductory paragraph, you should write about the Declaration of Independence to explain the ideals that are described in that text.  Then, you should find texts through research (secondary sources) that describe the ways in which access to those ideals has been denied a certain group of people.  For example, you may develop an argument in the body of the paper that explains the struggle by black people in this country-from slavery to the civil rights movement to today-as a struggle to gain access to the ideals promised in the Declaration, or you might write about the struggles another group (women, homosexuals, etc.) have faced in an effort to gain equality and liberty.

Topic III

Thomas Jefferson’s Life Vs His Idealism

Examine Jefferson’s life and times to discuss the conflict between the ideals he described in writing and the life he lived. In his lifetime, equal rights were legally guaranteed to no one but white, male, landowners, and Jefferson not only owned slaves but also referred to Native Peoples as “merciless Indian savages” instead of people with unalienable rights.  How can an examination of Jefferson’s life and other writings help us learn something about him as well as about American ideology?  For this topic, use the Declaration of Independence in the introductory paragraph to define the ideals that Jefferson prescribed in that document.  The body paragraphs will contain research that shows both his violation of those ideals, as well as other writers’ perspectives concerning the conflict between Jefferson’s actions and his ideals. 

Topic IV

Types of Political Activism: Separatism VS Assimilation

In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson argues that the people have the right and the duty to “alter or abolish” a government that does not insure the rights of its citizens.  Discuss that part of the Declaration in an introductory paragraph as a way of explaining these two methods of political activism.  In general, political activism, no matter what the agenda, can be divided into these two camps (those who wish to abolish existing governments and those who wish to alter it).  How does the history of African American activism in this country reflect these two forms of political activism?  For example, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King represent these two options, as do Louis Farrahkan and Jesse Jackson.  Through research, examine either these two strains of activism in the black community, or you can choose another political movement (feminism, (Native American activism, gay rights activism, etc.). Explain the way in which the political movement you choose to write about represents the two strains of political activism that are described in the Declaration.

Topic V

The Myth of the “Vanishing Indian”

In “Wounded Knee,” Black Elk suggests that, after the Wounded Knee Massacre, Native American nations were “broken and scattered.”  Certainly, the U.S. government worked hard to wipe out the Native Peoples in America, but these people have not disappeared.  Provide a discussion of “Wounded Knee” in your introductory paragraph to set up this topic.  Then, through research, examine both the attempts by the U.S. government to wipe out native ways of life in this country and the responses of Native Peoples to the activities of the Federal government.

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