Critical Thinking & Information Literacy
Across the Curriculum
Capstone Project: Research Paper
RESEARCH PAPER TOPICS & GUIDELINES
Students should complete step one, and turn in a sheet with their proposed research
question by mid-quarter.
STEP ONE: Formulate a research question. You may choose one of the suggested topics
below. You may, however, choose to do a paper on some other topic so long as it is
controversial. That is, there must be reasonable disagreement about the issue.
1. Should affirmative action in employment and education be legal?
2. Should doctors ever be allowed to prescribe marijuana to patients?
3. Should the death penalty be abolished?
4. Should physicians be allowed to assist terminally ill patients in dying?
5. Should the World Trade Organization be abolished, reformed, or kept as it is now?
6. Do the wealthy have a moral obligation to help the poor?
7. Should Congress pass stricter gun control laws? If so, what restrictions
should be enacted?
STEP TWO: Clarify the issue that you will research by defining any vague terms.
For example, if you do a paper on affirmative action, what sorts of programs exactly
will your paper address?
STEP THREE Conduct a search on your topic. Try to find out what other people
have said about his issue. Also try to find any factual information that might
be relevant to your topic. For example, if you write a paper on the death penalty,
you may want to find out how much the death penalty costs, where it is used, and
what methods are used. Your paper will eventually have to incorporate at least
five sources, including at least three print sources. You can use the Web, books,
journal articles, newspapers, or magazines. Keep in mind that you want good sources
for your research, so pick sources that you believe meet the requirements for good
sources as discussed in class and in the text. You will need to document your search.
What terms did you use for your search. What sources did you initially find? Finally,
why did you choose to use the sources that you selected for your paper? That is,
explain why you believed the sources you picked to be particular relevant, accurate,
objective, and so forth. You will need to turn in this research narrative with your
STEP FOUR: Write a paper that defends your own position on the issue. Papers
should be typed with one-inch margins, double-spaced, and should not exceed five pages.
In your paper, be sure that you do all of the following:
a) Give what you take to be the best argument for your view. Use the sources you
found to support your view where appropriate, but be sure to give credit to the source.
(That is, when you rely on information you found somewhere, be sure to cite where you
are getting the information from.)
b) Present what you take to be the strongest objection(s) to your view. That is,
give is the strongest counter-argument to your position. Again, you may want to rely
on the views of another author. If you do, just be sure to cite.
c) Respond to the objection, or counter-argument, that has been raised against
your view. What is wrong with your opponent’s argument? (Presumably you think
something is wrong with it, otherwise you should change your position!)
Your paper will need to include a bibliography that cites all of the sources you
used to write the paper.
ROUGH DRAFT: Students will be required to turn in a rough draft of part a) of
the paper at the beginning of week 8. Students will need to bring TWO copies of
their draft to class.
PEER REVIEW: Everybody will then be asked to write comments for someone’s draft.
Your comments should point out both the strengths and the weaknesses of the draft.
What can the author do to improve her/his paper? Try to be specific in your comments.
Remember that you are potentially helping someone improve their grade.
NOTE: Turning in a rough draft, and participating in peer review will count
towards your homework grade for the course.
FINAL DRAFT: The final draft of the research paper will be due in class at the
end of the 9th week of the quarter.