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he following prompt is for WR4 Research Essay. This assignment link is for you to complete a full draft for process credit and feedback. You will be using a different assignment link to submit the final draft at a later date.

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ENGL 120 Research Paper Prompt

Topics in Agency vs Structure: A Research Essay


Thus far in our course, we have explored the tension between individual agency (our free will, personal decisions, etc.) and structural forces (the power of our environments and the systems in which we operate). This research essay process allows you to select a specific topic and corresponding question within the course theme. You will conduct research on that topic, and synthesize that research with your own informed position (through creating topic proposal, annotated bibliography, and rough draft). Ultimately, you will develop an academic, argumentative essay in response to the prompt you select. This assignment offers you not only an opportunity to learn more about a pressing topic in American society and culture, but also hone your academic research, critical thinking and writing skills.


Select a research topic and corresponding question from the Research Essay Topics list (attached to this prompt below, and available in Module Week 3).


  1. Select a topic and corresponding research question.
  2. Use the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database, available through Cuyamaca’s online library system to conduct your research. Type the topic name into the search box in Opposing Viewpoints to find the research starter information and articles associated with your topic. See attached Research Essay Topics and Database Information sheet attached below.
  • Note: You are required to use the Opposing Viewpoints database; do not just Google your topic.
  1. Prepare a formal Topic Proposal and Annotated Bibliography (WR3) that identifies your topic and research question, and summarizes at least 5 relevant and reputable sources, including at least one academic source.
  2. Submit a complete draft of the research essay for feedback.
  3. Revise draft based on feedback to ultimately submit a polished, final draft of the research essay (WR4).


  • Final research paper must offer an original thesis in response to the research question, and support that thesis with subclaims, evidence and analysis of reputable sources.
  • Final research paper must be 5-7 pages long (or 1600-2100 words), double spaced, 1” margins, 12 point Times New Roman or 11 point Arial. Essays that do not meet minimum length requirements will not receive a passing grade.
  • Final research paper must present evidence and analysis from at least three sources from the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database.

Note that while you summarize 5 sources in your Annotated Bibliography, you only are required to 3 sources in the actual research essay. The idea is to research widely, and only use the most relevant sources of what you locate and read.

  • Use in-text citations and include a works cited page according to MLA standards.

ntroduction to Writing the Research

Paper (and more!)

Happy Fourth of July week! This is the introduction page to the Week 4 module, which means

you’re about halfway done with this course. You are so working hard, and I hope you feel that

you’re learning both interesting content and useful writing skills. The research essay unit is the

longest in our course, but when you get through it, you’re so close to the finish line. Hang in

there, keep in touch with me, and review everything really carefully.


I strongly recommend you approach this week’s work in the following order:

The Memoir

Have you started

The Other Wes Moore


It’s not an overly long or difficult read, but it is

an entire book, so you’ll need to pace yourself. Don’t do that thing where you try to read it all in

one night before the quiz, or worse–not read it at all.

I recommend obtaining a paper copy of the novel from a library or book retailer, I’ve included a

link to a PDF with the whole book in REALLY BIG FONT, but students have reported that the

document is hard to read.

Start reading the novel now, and

mark important passages, themes and key quotes as you go


Check out the NPR interview and TED Talk the author did around the time the book came out

(both linked to the module).

Keep in mind that the book needs to be finished by Tuesday,

July 10th

. You need to be working on reading the memoir and completing your first draft of the

research essay simultaneously this week.

The Research Essay

At the beginning of this week, you submitted your WR3 Topic Proposal and Annotated

Bibliography, which means that the bulk of your research for the essay is finished.

Now it’s time

to draft your essay.

By the way, if you find you need to use new or different articles than you

identified in WR3, that’s ok; you are free to shift your sources as you’re writing the essay. You

do not have to go back and redo WR3 if you select different sources for the essay as you are

drafting it.


Check out the

full research essay prompt

, with all the steps, requirements and

guidelines you need to know about the final research essay.


Review the

lesson about Research Essays and Counterarguments

. It talks about

bacon. It has a really cheesy picture of people jumping against a sunset background. I

think you’ll love it. 😉


Use the

Counterargument handout

for an easy resource that recaps the highlights of

the lesson.


View the video and other web resources about research essays I linked to in the module


Carefully review out the

Sample Research essays

I loaded as models for you. They’re

on different topics than the ones are are writing about, but the building blocks are pretty

much the same.

Keep in mind that these students did not have to incorporate a

counterargument in their essays, and you do (they had to use primary texts instead).

There’s a model of a counterargument paragraph with information on how to incorporate

it in the lesson.



Find the

MLA formatting guide

that works best for you: I’ve linked to four MLA

resources here, for your reference. I know you probably hate MLA. I do too (shhhh, don’t

tell anyone). But not knowing how to use MLA properly in an academic research essay is

like trying to build a house without any tools. MLA is one of the most basic tools in

academic writing.


PS. Did you catch that the library database formats all the Works Cited MLA

entries for you? Bonus. You’ll still have to alphabetize and format them on the

works cited page for your research essay, and you’ll still have to wrangle those

pesky in-text citations when you paraphrase or quote a source.

Write It!


Draft the research essay

. Be sure it uses the 3D thesis and SEAS body paragraph

format we learned for our last essay, in addition to the counterargument skills that are

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