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December 4

posted Dec 4, 2012, 5:07 AM by Peter Knowles   [ updated Dec 4, 2012, 5:11 AM ]
By today's class you should have most of your research completed and you're now ready to get started writing your research essay. (If you are a little bit behind schedule and need instructions for the research portion of this project, see yesterday's assignment page

The best place to start is at the beginning -- not the beginning of your essay, perhaps, but the beginning of your story. If you're not sure where to start, try writing the Background section of your essay, where you talk about the broad rights involved in your issue. For example, if you've decided that your current topic deals with free speech issues, talk about freedom of speech: 
  • Where does it appear in the Constitution? 
  • What challenges to government actions in that area have occurred in the past? 
  • How has the Supreme Court addressed the issue in the past? 
  • What are the "landmark cases" in the area?
  • What is the current status of the issue? 
If you can answer a number of those questions in paragraph form, then you've probably done a pretty good job explaining the background of your issue. Someone who reads that paragraph should know enough about your topic to understand what comes next.

Now it's time to discuss your current topic. For that paragraph, try to accomplish the following tasks:
  • What are the specific details of your current issue (What has happened recently? Who is involved? Where did it happen? When?)
  • What makes your current topic different than what has gone before it? (Why is there still a question despite all you've discussed in the Background paragraph)
  • What previous decisions by the courts or previous laws relate most closely with your current issue? (What are the most relevant past cases or events?)
  • What do people on different sides of the issue have to say about their rights? (Are there particular voices or groups who have different points of view?)
  • What is the current status of your topic? (Is it in the court system? Will the Supreme Court hear the case? Will there be some other government decision to resolve the issue?
After talking about where your topic came from (in the Background paragraph) and what's happening now (the Current paragraph), it's time to look to the future and make your projections. What do YOU think will happen with your topic in the future. Although there's no right or wrong answer (at least, we won't know what's right or wrong for awhile) be sure to back up your thoughts with specific reasons. Feel free to revisit cases or ideas you've presented earlier in your essay to support your thoughts. And, because this paragraph is based on YOUR ideas and YOUR conclusions, the only reason you need to cite anything in this paragraph is if you introduce new research that you haven't discussed before. 

Now that you have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End to your story, it's time to write an introduction and a conclusion. For your intro, try to write an engaging and appealing paragraph that leads your reader into your topic. Include a thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph. (If you're stuck trying to write a thesis statement, you might want to re-read your paragraphs and see what your main point or idea is. You could also rely on your predictions in the Future paragraph to use as a focus for your thesis.) Your conclusion should help wrap up the essay, give a sense of completion, and echo your original thesis. 

Correctly format and your list of works cited, make sure you've correctly cited all outside sources of information, and you're all set. Turn your essay in using the Assessment DropBox, and you are done! 
Congratulations.
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