English 111 – Communications Expository Essay | Research Assignment

| September 13, 2016

English 111 – Communications

Expository Essay | Research Assignment

Due November 22, 2012

Introduction: Expository essays offer exposition, which involves a delving into in order to expose or explain. Your goal in this essay, then, is to analyze and interpret. You will look closely at the topic of your choice and explore and comment upon the problems, questions, issues, puzzles, complexities, difficulties, etc. that it presents. And, importantly, you will do so in dialogue with other sources and materials related to your topic; this means doing some research.

Approach: The approach you take to your topic, just like the topic itself, is up to you. There are, of course, many ways to approach an expository essay. And there are many ways to approach any one topic—though certain approaches will be more suitable than others, depending on your focus.

As our text points out, and as we recall, our topic should be significant, single, specific, and supportable—the old four Ss. Also as our text notes our subject may lend itself to analyses of process, of cause and effect, of classification or division; we may want to compare and/or contrast our specific topic/focus to something similar; we may want to take a more polemical approach as we present our analysis/argument. In the coming weeks we will spend some more time looking at these different patterns of development.

Suggestions: One key to a good research paper is to narrow your focus. To set out to write a paper on English literature would obviously be insane, given the sheer breadth and depth of such a field of investigation. You could select one play or novel, though. If, however, you are discussing a general phenomenon—such as addiction or gang violence—you can narrow your focus while still coming to conclusions about the broad topic, by paying close attention to a particular example of the topic or phenomenon. Your research question, then, would look something like this: what conclusions can we reach about X, given example y? If you are examining a certain aspect of culture, for instance, you would want to “read” it (analyze it, interpret it) and make an argument for how it speaks to, or for, the broader culture of which it is a part.

Another key is asking the right questions. You will likely want to pay attention to the who, what, when, and where, but these Ws should be answered in the initial stages of selecting your topic. More important are the why and how, and also the “so what?” This last question relates to the fact that your research paper should have a point to make, a conclusion to reach, an argument to lay out and support. You must establish your voice as an expositor, an explainer, an analyst, an interpreter; and in the process aim to carve out a unique take on your topic.

Yet another key is knowing your limits. There may be questions, problems, issues very worthy of research that you just don’t have the time or expertise to take on. One example might be questions within the field of science. Here you could explore a topic and present the work of others in explaining a certain phenomenon, but this wouldn’t allow you to present your own position; to make your own contribution to an area of knowledge.

A Word on Research: Something crucial to keep in mind in writing this expository research essay is that the answers to the above questions regarding selecting an approach, narrowing focus, asking appropriate questions, and knowing your limits come AS YOU DO your research. This is to say that researching becomes part of the process by which you determine the parameters of your project; you won’t quite know what you’re going to argue until you begin to delve into your topic by researching it—by learning more about it, of course; but also by considering what other perspectives on it exist. This can be daunting, but also exciting. It is thus also PARAMOUNT that you begin working early and leave yourself enough time for this process to unfold.

For specifics regarding library research (databases, search strategies), please refer to the information presented in our library session and also Chapter 11 in our textbook. We will spend time as the term progresses on the mechanics of writing a research paper (handling and documenting sources, for instance) and our essay workshops in November will give us time to revise and fine-tune.

A Final IMPORTANT Note: sometime over the weekend of October 20-21, 2012, I would like you to send me an email with a description of your chosen topic and some viable, if still (and understandably so) tentative, plans for an approach. What question, problem, issue do you hope to comment on in taking on your topic, and how will you go about tackling it?This email must demonstrate that you’ve begun, in earnest, to think about and even research your topic. You should at least have some sense of where you’re headed.

Finally, please, please don’t hesitate to discuss your ideas with me; to ask for help in shaping your project; or to get advice if you’ve hit a roadblock.

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