ENGL 120 Research Paper Prompt
Topics in Agency and Rights: A Research Essay
Thus far in our course, we have explored issues that involve our agency (or our ability to determine
the circumstances of our lives) and our individual rights. This research essay process allows you to
select a specific topic and corresponding question within the course themes. You will conduct
research on that topic, and synthesize that research with your own informed position. Ultimately,
you will develop an academic, argumentative essay in response to the prompt you select. This
assignment offers you not only an opportunity to learn more about a pressing topic in American
society and culture, but also hone your academic research, critical thinking and writing skills.
Explore academic arguments and evidence related to topics that are highly debated today! Become
a more informed person by learning how to locate and evaluate sources in a library database. Make
your own academic claims based on expert arguments and evidence. Consider counterarguments
against your own position and write smart, convincing refutations or accommodations. Don’t these
skills sound like they will come in handy for future college classes, future work in a variety of fields,
or future debates with family members whose beliefs oppose your own?
Select a research topic and corresponding question(s) from the Research Essay Topics list.
Write an argumentative essay that offers original claims and researched evidence to
respond to the selected question(s).
§ Final research paper must be 5-7 pages long (or 1600-2100 words), double spaced, 1” margins,
12 point Times New Roman or 11 point Arial. Essays that do not meet minimum length
requirements will not receive a passing grade.
§ Final research essay must follow the required formats from course lessons, materials, and
models, and . . .
o Include an introduction that offers important contextual information about the topic
for an unfamiliar reader, as well as a 3D Thesis Statement, according to class
o Incorporate SEAS Body Paragraphs with subclaims, introduction to and incorporation
of evidence, author-focused analysis, and a discussion of the significance of the evidence
with regard to the larger argument.
o Cite/draw evidence from a minimum of four sources from the Opposing Viewpoints in
Context database. Two sources should come from the Viewpoints sections of Opposing
Viewpoints (either featured viewpoints or all), and should form a point/counterpoint in
response to your question (think pro/con). Two additional sources can come from any
section, including Viewpoints, Academic Journals, News, or Magazines. The general
research starter article at the top of your research page does not count as one of your
sources. If you don’t see what you think you need for your essay, contact me.
§ Note: any sources outside Opposing Viewpoints need prior approval before
being incorporated into the assignment.
o Introduce a counterargument, and then either refute or accommodate that
counterargument according to the formats offered in the corresponding
o Wrap up your essay with a conclusion that restates your main argument and subclaims
and addresses the larger significance of your position. You can connect to current
events, offer a call to action, or end with a personal connection to the topic.
Use in-text citations and include a works cited page according to MLA standards. The works
cited page does not count toward essay page length. Tip: All sources in the Opposing Viewpoints
in Context have a completed, formatted, correct MLA citation available, already completed for
• Locate and evaluate reputable, scholarly sources on a specific topic within the course unit
• Respond to that research question in an argumentative essay that includes a thesis,
subclaims, and well-developed body paragraphs
• Synthesize, present and analyze evidence from research in support of claims
• Produce a largely error-free academic research paper of 5-7 pages (1600-2100 words),
citing at least 3 sources
• Avoid plagiarism by properly citing quoted, summarized, and paraphrased material using
MLA format in in-text citations and a works cited page
Research Essay Discussion Assignment due Tuesday, July 14th
Research Essay Draft for Instructional Review due Friday, July 17th
Research Essay Final Draft due Friday, July 24th
The research topics list and a detailed list of steps to access the database and conduct your
research are included below!
Research Topics and Database Information
Note: This information is duplicated from the module for WR3
Please view the topic list and questions, and pick the topic and question(s) you are most interested
in exploring. Every topic has two questions under it. You have the option of focusing your research
paper on one of those questions, or both. After you review the topic list, pay close attention to the
instructions below about how to use the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database.
Research Essay Topics and Questions
Juvenile Justice System
• Are juveniles fully responsible for criminal behavior?
• Should juveniles be tried as adults for some especially serious crimes?
§ Do recent police killings justify calls for reforms to police departments?
§ What measures, if anything, should police reforms incorporate, and why?
Freedom of Speech
• Should hate speech be banned or regulated in the U.S.?
• Should social media platforms try to regulate hate speech?
Note: for this topic, you can also search the term “Social Media” in the Opposing Viewpoints Database
for relevant articles.
• Does violent media (like films or video games) cause violence in children, adolescents or
• Does the media’s coverage of violence create more violence?
Note: for this topic, you can also search the term “Media Coverage of Mass Violence” in the Opposing
Viewpoints Database for relevant articles.
• Should colleges and universities take steps to ensure racial diversity in admissions?
• What race-conscious approaches or programs, if any, should colleges and universities use to
diversify their student body?
Note: for this topic, you can also search the term “College Admissions Process” in the Opposing
Viewpoints Database for relevant articles.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context
A Library Database
The Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District library system subscribes to various
research databases, which are fantastic tools for students. For our work in this unit, we will be
using the database called Opposing Viewpoints in Context. You cannot access this database
through Google or any other public search engine: it is only open to GCCCD enrolled students, and if
you are off-campus, you will need to use your Web Advisor username and password to access it.
1. Select a topic and corresponding research question(s) from the list provided. Essays that cover
a topic not listed will not be accepted without prior approval.
2. Watch the video linked to the module about how to use the Opposing Viewpoints database.
Access Opposing Viewpoints database by navigating to the Research Databases section on the
Cuyamaca College Library webpage, or by using the link in the module.
3. You will be instructed to log-in using your Web Advisor username and password. If you have
any problem getting access to Opposing Viewpoints in Context, please contact a librarian or the
4. Once you are in the Opposing Viewpoints Database, type your topic name exactly as it appears
on the list above into the search box. The topic name should appear on an auto-generated menu
in bold. Click on it.
5. A page will open about your research topic. Every page is laid out exactly the same: there is
research starter article at the very top with an overview of your topic and the debates around it.
Click to read it—it’s a valuable source, but since it’s basically like an encyclopedia entry, it does
not count toward one of your required sources.
6. Each topic page also features a variety of sources about your topic, from argumentative essays
(“Viewpoints”), to academic journal articles, magazine articles, statistics, audio clips, etc. The
articles are divided and arranged by type.
7. Start with the Viewpoints articles. Most topics have “Featured Viewpoints” and then an
additional section titled just “Viewpoints.” These are argumentative essays by a variety of
experts on your topic, and the titles of the articles frequently give a clue about the main point.
When you select your sources, pick ones that most closely relate to your research question AND
that offer substantive key concepts, useful studies, and interesting subclaims that you can use as
evidence in your own paper. Some articles are too short and not useful. Don’t pick those.
8. Finally, check out some of the sources in the other sections, like News and Magazines—you’re
welcome to use anything that appears helpful in helping you create and support arguments.
Note: You are required to use the Opposing Viewpoints database; essays that incorporate
sources not from Opposing Viewpoints will not be accepted without prior approval.
9. After familiarizing yourself with your topic, the research starter overview, and some of the
arguments/points in some relevant sources on your research page, complete the assigned
discussion board for this unit.
10. Make final decisions about what 4 (minimum) sources you would like to use for the research
essay. Remember that authors’ arguments and expert opinions can be your evidence.
Remember that you’ll need at least one text that offers arguments that oppose your own for the
counterargument section. Take detailed notes on your sources so that you can engage with
them closely in the essay.
11. While you are working, be sure to pay close attention to the lessons and resources on the
module for information about how to structure the essay, including more detailed information
about how to incorporate evidence, how to perform close analysis, and how to do the
12. Create a complete draft of the research essay and submit it for feedback.
13. Revise draft based on feedback to ultimately submit a polished, final draft of the research essay.
14. Extra awesome bonus: MLA citation is available perfectly formatted through the Opposing
Viewpoints database. To get the MLA citation for your Works Cited page, just click on the
article and look for it either at the bottom of the text, or at the right hand menu called “Tools.”
The top selection should be “Citation Tools.” Click on that, and you’ll see a perfectly-formatted
8th Edition MLA entry for the text. Just copy and paste it onto your own works cited page, and
organize alphabetically. Remember that a Works Cited page is required for the final draft of the
essay and does not count as a required page for length.
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