To research a topic, compile information from a variety of sources about it, synthesize that information, draw conclusions regarding that information, develop an assertion from your conclusions, and present your argument/assertion (thesis) with evidence using an appeal to logos in the form of a well-developed and properly documented essay.

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Research Topic

You must form a narrowed, focused research topic after choosing[1] from among the three broad topics listed below:


  • Food insecurity
  • Transportation access
  • Student wellness


Be creative with how you turn these broad topics into narrowed, focused research questions! See the “Research 101” handout from the Eastfield Library.


Remember that since your topic must be debatable by other reasonable people, it cannot argue for or against established fact. So, “cigarettes are harmful to human health” will not be approved, because this is already an established scientific fact. (See “Arguable Claims” in Achieve for help.)


Examples of narrowing broad topics into focused topics

  • Broad: “popular music”
    • Narrower: “Kendrick Lamar’s contribution to the music industry”
  • Broad: “Immigration:
    • Narrower: “how DACA could improve the economy”
  • Broad: “guns”
    • Narrower: “reducing high-school shootings” is narrower (although it should ideally go even narrower)
    • Even narrower: “how the ability to print 3D guns affects efforts to reduce gun deaths”
  • Broad: “climate change”
    • Narrower: “effectiveness (or lack thereof) of policies to thwart environmental impacts of climate change”
  • Broad: “Mexican-American literature”
    • Narrower “Mexican-American activist literature of the 1930s in California”


Minimum Writing Requirements

  • 5-7 pages (concision is vital). This assumes that you formatted properly. So, if you add extra spacing to your paper, that extra space will be deducted from your page count.
  • No first person –
    • Allowed in intro or conclusion if “we”/”our”/”us” (first person plural) has already been specifically defined in the sentence
    • Ex: American citizens, American voters, people living in America, Westerners, college students, working adults, readers, viewers, consumers, etc.
  • Avoid contractions. “isn’t” —> “is not”; “doesn’t” —> “does not”
  • NO second person – NEVER. (Unless in a quote.) Automatic 50 if used even once. Use CTRL+F to find them!
  • Passive voice –
    • Minimal/rarely/never – A quality
    • Moderate frequency – B quality
    • Excessive use – C quality
  • Multi-paragraph format (introduction with thesis statement, body paragraphs, conclusion).
  • Minimum of two citations/uses of sources in every body paragraph. This minimum will force you to accomplish two things: 1) stick with the evidence and avoid mere opinion, and 2) develop your body paragraphs sufficiently. You may incorporate citations into your intro and conclusion as well, but this is not required.
  • Use the quote sandwich when embedding quotes.
  • Every body paragraph must have a topic sentence that states the overall claim of the paragraph. This means that no body paragraph should begin with a quote, a statement of fact, or a question.
  • Typed in size 12-point Times New Roman font.
  • One-inch margins, double-spaced, header, heading, etc.
  • MLA documentation and in-text citations required
  • MLA Works Cited page required, in proper format.

Minimum Research Requirements:

  • A minimum of 3 sources, all of which pass TRAAP test.
    • Two sources MUST be peer-reviewed (scholarly) journal articles (see below).
    • The other source is of your choosing as long as it passes the TRAAP test.
  • General encyclopedias or dictionaries do not count. Such sources are too broad/general. This includes print and electronic editions of works like World Book, Wikipedia, Webster’s, and Encarta.
    • A specialized encyclopedia, such as the Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, does count as one of the required sources.
  • Any internet sources must be credible, expert, authoritative, reliable, academic sources that pass the TRAAP test. Do not use sites such as, WebMD, eHow,, Shmoop,,,, etc. Avoid Google altogether (unless it’s Google Scholar).

How to Access/Find Peer-Reviewed Academic Journal Articles:

These steps might change as Dallas College continues consolidation; if so, email Dr. Tolle.


To find peer-reviewed articles, go to Dallas College AZ Databases, and access “Academic Search Complete.”


  1. Click on “Academic Search Complete.”
  2. Log in with your DCCCD Account (the same one you use for eConnect and eCampus).
  3. Enter your search terms.
  4.  On the left, find the “Limit to” filter section.
  5. Check the box for “Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals” to filter peer-reviewed results.
  6. Make sure that the article you choose has the icon that says “Academic Journal” (not “Periodical” or “Book review”).


When you want to view the full article as it appears in the journal, click “View Full Article” or “Download PDF Full Article.” You must cite the page numbers!

Things that will HURT your grade

  • NOT having a strong, clear claim (thesis)
    • Poor organization—(thesis, topic sentences, logical paragraphs)
  • Wordiness/redundancies. Be concise. Never say in 10 words what you can say in 5.
  • Excessive use of passive voice. Use active voice.
  • Quotes from your source with no explanation or connection to the thesis
  • Quotes that are not embedded: don’t expect higher than a C if you fail to embed quotes.
  • Failing to address your opposition’s potential claims.
  • Using weak sources or sources that are not academic/credible/reliable
  • Asking rhetorical questions. Essays should answer questions, not ask them. Don’t ask your readers questions — give them answers.

Things that will result in a FAILING GRADE

  • Failure to use all required sources
  • The lack of citations from required sources in every body paragraph
  • Not following the formal tone guidelines described on page 2.
  • The lack of a Works Cited page in proper format giving full credit to your sources
  • Use of sources that do not appear on the WC page.
  • Inclusion of sources on the WC page that are never cited in the paper (it’s called a “Works Cited” page for a reason)
  • Overuse of quotes (85%-90% should be your words/voice, which means less than 10% should be from other sources, even if documented correctly).
  • Quotes/specific details from your source without parenthetical documentation
  • A mere summary of the issue/topic (which would be informative, not argumentative)
  • Exact words from a source without quotation marks (which is plagiarism)
  • Failure to meet the minimum length requirement
  • Plagiarismautomatic zero. See Chapter 21 of your textbook.
  • Late submission without prior approval → automatic zero


Things I’m looking for while grading:


  • Purpose: Your essay provides a clearly defined purpose.
  • Introduction: Your introduction captures the attention of your readers and your main points (thesis statement) are clearly articulated.


  • Scope: Key ideas are focused throughout the paper and descriptive examples of ideas are included.
  • Depth: Complete and relevant development of ideas supported by specific examples.


  • Focus: Organized around a focus stated in a thesis statement. Your paper is written in a logical order.
  • Relationship: The relationship of ideas is clear; transitional sentences are used to guide the reader.
  • Structure: All paragraphs support your main idea; paragraphs are structured around controlling ideas.



Working Draft Rubric

For more information about the Working Draft, please look at the “What Is a Working Draft?” handout. It is the same process and evaluation criteria as your previous working draft.


Final Draft Rubric

See the Blackboard assignment submission box and this link for the Final Draft grading rubric. It is the same rubric used for the final draft of your previous formal essay assignment.


[1] If you would like to explore a different topic for this paper, I’m open to ideas! Just email me for approval before doing the actual research proposal.


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