why motley crue should be inducted into the hall of fame

English 110

Hagemann, Fall 2020

Research Project Assignment

 

Your final project has three parts, the most of important of which is the argumentative research essay that you will submit, along with a folder containing copies of your sources, on the last day of class. What follows, then, describes the first part, the research proposal.

 

Part IThe Research Proposal is due October 27. Post your proposal on the Discussions board by Oct. 27th.

 

Our final project involves a close look at a major artist, and it begins with a research proposal. The purpose of the proposal is to show your reader that you have done some preliminary research and have a workable, sufficiently complex and argumentative thesis. The goal is to give us some sense of the research you’ve done and the sort of research you plan to do. A solid proposal will attend to these areas:

 

  1. Introduction of subject, along with necessary context or background
  2. A narrow, clear and argumentative topic
  3. A “working” thesis
  4. Some indication of the sources you intend to use.

 

Here is what a good research proposal might look like:

SAMPLE RESEARCH PROPOSAL
The Other Elvis

My research project will focus on the significance of the British singer/songwriter, Elvis Costello. I am especially interested in his reputation as an early punk, an “angry young man,” and despite the fact that he is British, a connoisseur of American music. My essay will explore and (I hope) defend Costello from the accusation that his work is misogynistic—or at least sexist—and that it borrows inappropriately from American genres like country and jazz. Although it is true that women are not always portrayed positively in Costello’s songs, it is men in his songs that we should worry about. More often than not, I will argue, female characters are the victims of small, desperate, foolish, paranoid, obsessive, jealous men. As for the issue of appropriation, I will show that Costello’s work pays homage to the giants on whose shoulders he stands and argue, more basically, that appropriation as an accusation is usually misplaced.

Because I hope to defend Mr. Costello, I will need unbiased sources, so I will start with Graeme Thomson’s Complicated Shadows and Richard Groothuizen’s Going through the Motions. Dai Griffiths’ Elvis Costello will be of great use. It will be necessary to hear from the man himself, though, so I will rely on his terrific memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink and on a handful of definitive Rolling Stone interviews. But because my argument will be mainly derived from his body of work, much of my argument will focus on primary sources, that is, on the music itself.

Part II: Annotated Bibliography:

An annotated bibliography is a list of works that you will cite or plan to cite in your essay. Your annotated bibliography must include at least 15 credible sources. In order to compile your annotated bibliography, you will need to write entries for each source, in MLA style. Your sources should be alphabetized by the author’s last name or the first main word of the title (when there is no author). Entries should be single spaced and use a hanging indentation style. You will follow each entry with an annotation, a short paragraph that sums up the work. Note that I’ve posted an up-to-date version of the MLA Handbook on BlackBoard. Your annotated bibliography is due November 12th.

Part III: The Research Essay

In a clear and concise, error free research essay of about 10 pages, use MLA-style documentation to develop an argumentative research thesis that focuses on a major artist or group. The possibilities seem nearly infinite, and if you are unsure about your interests, let’s talk. Note too that I’ve put several good music books on reserve: Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar, and Love for Sale: Pop Music in America by David Hajdu. These books should help you get started if you aren’t sure. If you do have a good idea, one that you are enthusiastic about, get started. Now. Today.

As you narrow your topic, remember that the goal of a research essay is to discuss persuasively your well-reasoned ideas. It takes time to develop well-reasoned ideas, and everything takes longer than we think it will. If you procrastinate, it will hurt your chances of earning a good grade, and since there will be no chance to revise after submitting your final version, you will have to live with that grade. Let me be frank: most students write weak research projects, and the reason is always the same: procrastination. Many students underestimate the time and challenge involved in finding sources and overestimate their ability to take notes and compose quickly. Students tell themselves that they will just gather up some books and essays and start plowing through them. But these things take time and effort—a lot more than we think—and no one has ever accomplished something great merely by “plowing through.” If you can devote even half an hour a day to your essay, starting now, you will have ample time to draft, revise, workshop, and revise some more. Your final project is due December 3rd.

Here are some guidelines and recommendations for your final draft:

 

  • Use at least 5 legitimate and credible sources. This means that you should rely on library materials, especially the databases accessible via the library web site. More importantly, it means keeping Internet sources to a bare minimum. Use a variety of sources, but no Internet sources. (I am willing to make exceptions, but you’ll need to clear any non-library sources with me.)

 

  • Remember that your goal is to persuade readers to accept what you believe. This means that your essay will have a fair-minded tone, that it will consider an academic (or Edgewood) audience, that it will present more than one side of the argument (if relevant), but will ultimately take a clear stand. It will not merely survey the existing scholarship. A successful essay will interest and convince a group of people of something you consider important, so make every effort to engage and compel your audience and every effort to avoid alienating those who may disagree. It may help to think about New York Times writer A. O. Scott’s claim that a critic is, “a person whose interest can help activate the interest of others.” That’s your job in a nutshell. Get interested. Activate our interest.

 

  • I’m asking for more than a presentation of the information. This is not a report, it is an argument. A good essay will explain and synthesize research material, but always with the goal of persuading your reader to believe what you believe. Don’t merely show us what you’ve found; show us why it’s important and how it relates to your overall argument. Think about the “who cares?” and “so what” questions.  Make sure that you drive the research and don’t let the research drive you.

 

  • Don’t procrastinate. It’s hard when you wait until the last minute, especially when you’ll be dealing with other demands on your time. Interlibrary loan usually takes about five day but can take longer with hard-to-find sources. Get started now, and talk to me as soon as you feel like you’re having trouble.

 

  • Do not plagiarize. Make sure that every idea, whether it is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized, is properly cited. If it does not come from your own brain, it probably needs a citation. See next bullet point for more information:

 

  • Be sure you have a clear understanding of MLA style. It is not an intellectually demanding system. It does require careful attention, however, and you will want to bookmark Purdue’s on-line writing center (OWL). You can find details concerning MLA style by following this link:  http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/research/r_mla.html#other

 

 

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