Research Paper (Part 1, The Introduction):
Introduction: When I was in the 6th grade, I was taught about the great explorers of the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries. Magellan. Hudson. Drake. Polo. Columbus. I distinctly remember imagining myself on deck of Drake’s ship, The Golden Hind, circumnavigating the globe, pursuing high adventure through unknown, undrawn lands. These great men uncovered the dark parts of the globe. It wasn’t until college, until I read books like Lies My Teacher Told Me and The People’s History of the United States that I realized I had been lied to, viscously and repeatedly—though I expect unknowingly. Somewhere in the vast cultural milieu of my schooling I felt I had been promised that learning meant trusting my teachers. I believed my teachers. I think I must have foolishly and naively believed in a hierarchy of fallibility with myself at the bottom and my teachers at the pinnacle, closest to an error-free life. Two things never occurred to me: (1) the great men and women of the past were human, flawed, greedy, and occasionally downright evil. And, (2) my teachers, too, were human, flawed, embarrassed, and occasionally misinformed. This would become a recurring theme. Lightning, it seems, will not give you superpowers. Wishing hard for something doesn’t make it come true, and thinking of someone before the phone rings doesn’t mean I have psychic powers or that I’m mystically connected to my friends. Did I believe these voodoo dreams at one point? Maybe. Maybe I still hold to the belief that a certain incantation to my wife will protect her from harm when she’s away from home. And maybe I find comfort in this. Belief, in short, is a powerful thing. It creates religions and cults, presidents and jokes. My hope for you and this paper is a chance to explore a belief, recent or distant, and ask some of the questions. Ask, as Julia Kristeva does in her book, why we have This Incredible Need to Believe? And ask how it came about. But, belief is only one facet of the polyhedral process of this paper. In order for us to discuss belief, we need to discuss its cousins, neighbors, antecedents and tangents. In other words we need to explore the truth, lies, bullshit, fake news, bad science, bad research, misunderstanding, misinformation, and why we should care. I hope that the reading material for the semester will prepare you for this. I hope you will engage in this reading material and doubt it, test it, challenge it—challenge me and my claims and arguments. Your paper should investigate a lie or a belief or an instance(s) of bullshit, weigh its consequences, uncover its causes, un-pack its power to persuade. Your paper should be meticulously researched, logically argued and elegantly presented.
Research Paper (Part 2, The Assignment):
The Assignment: Write a 7-8 page research paper on either (1) why people believe what they believe. You should feel free to define belief as broadly as you’d like. However, you may not write about one of your own beliefs. Choose some-thing you can be skeptical about, whether it’s crypto-zoological, spiritual, religious, political, conspiratorial or historical. Then, with sympathetic research, ask yourself why so many people believe in your topic. The reasons for this belief may vary from psychological to neurological to educational. Or, perhaps, an amalgamation of all three. Perhaps more. Whatever the case, you must engage in an argument relevant to today that answer how and why people believe(d) what they believe. A simple illumination of a belief system, a report on Scientology for example, does not constitute a good research paper. You must instead, explore all of the reasons why someone might be induced to believe. Finally, you must be able to construct a logical, entertaining and compelling demonstration of your points. Even the brightest truth is tarnished by poor construction. Alternatively, write about (2) a lie, an in-stance of bullshit or fake news. If you choose this path, be certain that you can demonstrate beyond doubt that the topic is a lie or is bullshit (following Frankfurt’s definitions of the term) or is fake news. Ask the question why does this matter and to whom? Then, be certain you are answering both in your paper. Conduct empathic research and wrestle with the effects of this claim. Caution! If you can’t absolutely prove the falsity of the claim, don’t write about it. If you’re writing about bullshit, recall that truth and lies are less important than intention in this instance and write about why we should care about his. Remember, good research paper exists to make an argument that matters to the population today.
Research Paper (Part 3, Methodology & Process):
Methodology: Your introduction should be enticing and clear. Perhaps most importantly, it should introduce your topic and your argument. While your thesis does not have to be explicit, it should begin its development in your introduction. That said, your introduction need not be artificial or adhere to any inorganic structural rules, but it should orient your audience. It should provide the purpose, highlight your voice and style, and its themes might reasonably recur throughout the essay. The body should spill naturally out of the introduction. The majority of your evidence will be collected in the body in the form of paraphrasing, summarizing and integrated quotations along with the necessary accumulated data, anecdotes, etc. This evidence should be intelligently introduced and more importantly, thoroughly analyzed and explained. Use They Say, I Say as a guide for the proper way to manage an academic argument. An A paper will have mapped out a structure and an organization for the body. Idea will flow into idea in an effortless and intuitive manner. Because the evidence is organized, your transitions should be nearly trans-parent—practically unneeded. Your conclusion, then, should be neither abrupt nor repetitive. Rely on the construction of the essays we read in class to guide you.
Process: Before you turn your final draft in, you will complete a series of minor tasks including proposals, annotations, summaries and analyses. Each of these should help you on your journey to research your paper.
One final thought: as this is a paper on lies & bullshit, try to avoid adding to the surplus. Research well the claims you make. Test your logic. And, finally and most significantly, don’t make up what you don’t know for certain.
WHAT IS AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY?
An annotated bibliography is a list of citations. What makes it different from a Works Cited or standard Bibliography is that each citation is followed followed by 1-2 paragraphs which inform the reader about the source. You should reflect on how you plan to incorporate a source into your paper.
1. The citation
In MLA format. Arranged alphabetically by author's last name.
2. The summary
Provide a brief overview detailing what your article or book is about. You can discuss the authority of the author, the intended audience, or how this fits into the literature in that field.
3. The analysis
Explain why this article or book is important to your argument. Show how it supports and/or refutes your argument. You might also discuss its limitations or biases. Be as specific as possible.