Writing Assignment 4: Research Paper

The research paper in HUM 103-104 lets faculty, fellows, and your Humes peers, but also any interested reader, see some of your best intellectual work in the course and from your first year at Davidson. We can see your passion and focus, your curiosity and analytical skill, your abilities to read well and write with clarity and grace about something that is difficult and uncertain and that matters to you and, because of your writing, will matter to your readers. Your paper will be the centerpiece of your portfolio, so think about how it connects to your other concerns in the course and the theme of your portfolio. It might be that what you have chosen as a topic helps you identify your theme.

Your argument should focus on something difficult, something uncertain, from a clear position or point of view.

This “something difficult” should be specific and focused. The biggest problems we see in student papers result from a scope that is too broad, a topic that is too big. The best papers limit the scope of the difficult example or problem (in a performance, text, or artifact, etc.).

You should follow a basic three-step move as you prepare to write the paper:

  1. Brainstorm “how” or “why” questions that your particular work raises for careful readers. “How” or “why” questions will help you examine the work as a complex object of inquiry, and are important questions to ask as you work towards generating an argumentative claim.
  2. Use the scholarly conversation to frame your observations and analysis, building on the work of other scholars while underscoring your contribution clearly. Scholarly work feels independent, but is always built on the work of scholars who came before. Intellectual life is, by definition, collaborative.
  3. Your argumentative claim will ultimately help your reader better understand the work as well as help your reader understand why the work in question matters. You want the reader to have an “aha!” moment. Rather than asking themselves “so what,” your reader will have learned something new from your paper that would not have otherwise been evident from a cursory encounter with the work in question. Your paper will yield new information, new insight, new perspectives, a different reading, a more nuanced interpretation, etc.


Your research paper will:

  1. describe a difficult problem or question from a specific position (like in paper 2)
  2. describe key relevant aspects of that scholarly conversation and make a move to join that conversation with a question or claim (build on the scholarly conversation assignment)

You will support your claim or inform your question with evidence. That evidence can be a close reading of the problem as represented by the text (or artifact broadly understood) that you describe in part, often answering “how” or “why” questions about your claim.

Mechanical Requirements

  • 2500 words (approx. 10 pp.) not including the paratext (that is, title page, footnotes, any images or figures, and bibliography)
  • 12 point, Times New Roman, justified left, one-inch margins, title page with a meaningful title, page numbers (no page number on the title page), footnote numbers at the end of the sentence, separate bibliography of works cited page, etc.
  • MLA or Chicago notes and bibliography style.

A paper with formatting and citation errors gives the appearance that it was prepared in haste, even if that is not the case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *