Choose a multifaceted problem or issue that genuinely perplexes you and is pertinent to a wider audience (assuming a well-informed, well-educated audience). Choose wisely, as you will use this topic for the entire semester. For the proposal, your goal is three-fold:
1) Clearly state your chosen topic and examine it from a variety of perspectives.
2) Establish the significance of the topic (the “so what?”) that justifies your research.
3) Outline how you intend to approach your research.
Below are some tips on choosing a suitable topic:
Choose a manageable topic: The overwhelming majority of students approach me with subjects far too broad to cover in papers the length required in this course.
Find a unique perspective: Another valued characteristic in academic writing (in all writing, actually) is originality. Anyone can write a paper on topics such as gun control, marriage equality, legalization of marijuana, violent video games, and endless other topics already well covered by the media. However, unless you can find a unique angle to these exhausted topics that would be valuable to a well-informed audience, I suggest you avoid them – for your own sanity and for the sake of your grade, since depth and originality factor into your grade.
Start with a question: Academic inquiry starts with a question. Once you have a broad topic in mind that you want to research, formulate a question about that topic. Framing your topic in the form of a question can help narrow down a broad topic and serve as a framework for your thesis.
Choose a complex topic: Because you eventually will be writing a persuasive essay on your topic, choose a complex topic with multiple viewpoints. The best topics for persuasive essays tend to be controversial, but they needn’t be riot-evoking controversies; as long as the topic you choose has multiple viewpoints, you will be able to present the different perspectives and effectively argue in favor of one particular viewpoint.
Dig a Little Deeper: Schick and Schubert also give great advice for choosing a topic and formulating a research question on pages 148-157. We will be reading this chapter later in the semester, so just skim through it to give you ideas on how to choose and modify your topic/research question.
Length: 500- to 600- words
Format: Double-spaced, standard 12-point font Word document (no Google Docs, Page, etc., as I have had trouble accessing these in the past – please convert any other format to Word before submitting)
Point value: 50 points (see rubric)
• Rough draft: Before/on January 28
• Final paper: Before/on February 4
Submission: Upload Word document to Canvas