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FIRST-YEAR RESEARCH SEMINAR

WINTER 2017
TOPIC ANALYSIS ASSIGNMENT
Background: This assignment builds on our class discussions, your location of possible topics, Short Writing
Assignment #2, and our first library visit. It asks you to move toward committing to a research agenda for the term,
and to formulating a research question to guide your approach.
Consider this hypothetical example. Hip Hop is a topic; it is huge, complicated, and contains many different
issues. No writer could possible develop and support a thesis statement on hip hop in a single paper. Statements
such as hip hop and fashion or hip hop and production/distribution are much too broad to serve as workable
thesis statements. The subject contains many sub topics, and such a broad focus would produce a paper in which the
writer raises several issues, but only provides scant and superficial analysis of each one.
To help avoid this possibility, lets locate some fairly specific topics or issues within the broader area of hip-hop.
Some possibilities include: hip hops debt to a specific producer or musician such as George Clinton or Little
Richard or a group like the Black Panthers. Or, hip hop and fashion during a specific wave or era, such as late 70s
NYC. Or hip hop and cultural criticism such as during a historical moment (the 90s LA riots, or the first year of the
Reagan presidency).
So heres where we now stand: After locating an issue or specific topic, each student must develop a guiding
research question. A research question allows you to focus your issue even more and provides guidance as you
conduct research. Good research questions cannot generally be answered with a yes or no, but rather with
how, why, should, or the extent of which. In class, well think of some guiding research questions
concerning the hypothetical topics listed above, as well as other subjects under consideration by class members.
Description of Assignment: In this essay, you should plan to discuss three features of your work so far. Describe
the process you have undergone in choosing your topic, including what attracted you to this study in the first place.
Discuss your guiding research question, situating it in relation to others issues involved in the area of study. Be sure
to state the question clearly and directly, and to articulate it as a question, not a statement of thesis. Employ at least
five sources in the process of crafting your analysis. The latter two elements should not be seen as separate parts of
your paper; use the sources to discuss the guiding research question. In turn, indicate how your approach fits into
the general debate on the topic.
Id urge you to read the student sample Ive posted on our web site youll see that this writer uses first person and
a somewhat informal voice, yet she is clearly engaged, informed, and invested in the process.
Due: See syllabus; Submit as an attachment/email prior to class time
Length: At least four pages, plus Works Cited entries
Style: Use appropriate MLA style. Treat this as a formal essay.
Grading: 10% of final grade

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