research paper assignment: guidelines and timeline

see REVISED SCHEDULE changes as marked below

The research paper in HUM 103-104 lets faculty, 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 matters to you and 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.


Your paper should engage a question about something in the course in a clear way. The “something in the course” here is a text from within the course, broadly understood, so a reading, image, film, video, dance, treatise, music, lecture, museum or site visit, maybe even in some ways a lecture or conversation or discussion from within the course. A successful paper will align with this basic three-step move from a specific topic to a question or problem to a claim to others will want to know about:

1. I am interested in . . . (topic/theme, but already narrowed in scope to a specific text, part of a text, photograph, scene from a dance performance, musical passage, etc.
2. Because I want to find out . . . (question that will help generate a claim)
3. In order to help my readers better understand . . . ( and will be able to answer the “so what” challenge with “because of this”).

  • 2000-2500 words (that’s 8-10 pages of text) not including the paratext (that is, title page, footnotes, any images or figures, and bibliography)
  • as usual: 12 point, Times New Roman, justified left, one-inch margins, title page, no page number on the title page, footnote numbers at the end of the sentence, punctuation inside quotation marks, only one space after a period, etc.
  • Chicago Style (Notes and Bibliography overview, and examples; the quick guide is here); go to and bookmark these pages; use them
  • A paper with formatting and citation errors gives the appearance that it was prepared in haste, even if that is not the case.

Each piece of your paper goes in its own folder. Here’s the folder structure in dropbox and how that looks:

screenshot of the dropbox folder structure for reearch papers


REVISED SCHEDULE Absolute deadlines (revised April 8)

Full draft (guidelines suggest April 10). Absolute latest deadline is May 9.
Required one-on-one with your section teacher or Prof. Denham on May 11, 12, or 13 if you use these dates.
Final draft (guidelines suggest April 25). Absolute latest deadline is May 13.

Tuesday 25 Feb (before class) paper topic statements due (folder research paper 1). What are you interested in? How does it connect to a text or artifact in the course?
Discuss and narrow your topic this week. ProTip! Read “From Topics to Questions,” Chapter 3 in Booth et al., The Craft of Research, here.
In AT this week you discuss your initial paper topic statement and work together on reducing scope.

over spring break continue to think about scope as you read in Booth et al and prepare your revised topic statement

Monday 9 March, 10 pm revised topic statement due (folder research paper 2). Scope, scope, scope! Less is more.

Week or 3/9 Librarians Cara Evanson, James Sponsel, Meggie Lasher, and Kelly Denzer will join us in sections this week on Tuesday or Thursday.
On Tuesday:
Kelly Denzer will meet with Prof. Munger’s section
James Sponsel will meet with Prof. Tamura’s section.
On Thursday:
Meggie Lasher will meet with Prof. Ewington’s section.
Cara Evanson will meet with Prof. Bory’s section.
Kelly Denzer will meet with Prof. Denham’s section.
Three meetings about your idea this week! Faculty, fellow in your small group AT, librarian.
• Discuss your narrowed topic with your fellow and coursemates in AT.
• Meet with your new section faculty member this week to discuss topic and scope.
• Meet with your section’s librarian in groups of two or three on Thursday or Friday 19-20 March or during the week of 23 March to begin thinking about discovery and finding the scholarly conversation. (Book them here.)

NEW – two paper meetings and one AT meeting this week
week of 23 March
1. meet with your section prof. for a brief check in conversation about your papers (for some of you this will be a first meeting)
2. meet (if you’ve not done so already) with your librarian in your small groups of 2 or 3 to focus on discovery, using databases and search tools, also information on remote ILL services, other remote tools
3. AT meetings to check in on paper progress, normal times as scheduled* (ATs will set these up for you with a zoom invitation)
*For some of you there will be time zone adventures; let’s see how it goes this week.

Friday 27 March, 10 pm (Or whenever you get to it if these hard dates and times are not possible or are causing undue anxiety; these deadlines are very helpful for many of you, but not helpful for others. Do what works for you. Please keep your section professor informed so we don’t worry about you. Be in touch!)

Due: problem and the conversation, the “they say” draft section (folder research paper 3). Now that you’ve done the focusing and narrowing and have a problem or question, you can begin to find the conversation that will inform your claim about that problem or question.

For the “they say” section you’ll be writing about what the conversation is, as best you know it at this point. This is not an annotated bibliography. See Booth et al. The Craft of Research section 2 (chapters 3-6) at this point for helpful hints on reading for the conversation. Take notes as you read; some of those will make it into your “they say” draft. And see this section in Booth et al. for a really helpful set of tips on speedy reading.

week of 30 March required one-on-one writing fellow meetings reviewing your they-say draft and writing your I-say draft; book those as usual via the davidson.mywconline scheduling program
Profs and librarians are also available for meetings if you’d like. Just schedule those as usual.

Friday 3 April, 10 pm add your claim, the “I say” draft due (folder research paper 4)

week of April 6
required meeting with faculty about your I say draft in research paper folder 4 and your work on your full draft 1, which is due on Friday this week (research paper folder 5)
required meeting with writing fellows about your full draft, which is due on Friday this week
Friday April 10, 10 pm first full draft is due, 2000-2500 words not including paratext (research paper folder 5).

Break April 11-14

Wed 15 – Tue 21 April, Wed – Tue
• required meeting with faculty about your full draft and upcoming final version, which is due on Saturday April 25 this week
• required meeting with writing fellows about your full draft in progress, which is due on Friday this week; you must book your one-on-one fellow meetings at least a 24 hours ahead of the meeting.

Saturday April 25, 11:59 pm final version due (research paper folder 6).

April 27 – May 1 assessment meetings with faculty. You may choose to revise your final version for your portfolio based on these meetings.

Absolute deadlines (revised April 8)

Full draft (guidelines suggest April 10). Absolute latest deadline is May 9.
Required one-on-one with a faculty member on May 11, 12, or 13 if you use these dates.
Final draft (guidelines suggest April 25). 

Absolute latest deadline is May 13.

Your own dates for the various drafts may change in the coming weeks, but the absolute final deadlines in May for the initial full draft and the final draft can’t be moved. There is no wiggle room beyond that. The more space you leave between the draft and the final draft means more time for feedback and revision.