For this assignment, you will compose a ten-page research paper on a great thinker chosen from the attached list. There are three components to this assignment. The first is that you will write about the major thought, idea, or system of belief for which the great thinker was known. Secondly, you will write about two or three ways in which the teachings of the great thinker influenced history. Thirdly, you will provide a thoughtful analysis of at least one idea touted by the great thinker. You will need to research and properly document eight to ten scholarly sources using the MLA standard for citation. In addition to writing the paper, you will be learning and implementing a way to organize your research and writing. You will receive two grades for this assignment: one for the final paper and one for the research and writing prep work.
Research is an important skill for college students to learn and implement. When done well, research will help strengthen an argument, prove a point, verify facts, and explain with first-hand knowledge. At its most basic level, research is studying the works of experts in any given field. For instance, if I want to research heart surgery, I will locate experts in the field of cardiology and read what they say about the heart. In reading their works, which may consist of published studies, medical journal articles or medical books, or informative medical websites or blogs, I am presuming and appealing to their expert knowledge and skill in an area I know little or nothing about. In short, I’m reading and studying their work in order to learn. For your research paper, you will be appealing to the expert knowledge of a great thinker. You will research articles and/or books that were either written by the great thinker (we call this a primary source) or by someone who studied the great thinker (we call this a secondary source).
For example, let’s say you are studying Jonathan Edwards (great puritan theologian). Were you to read and study his actual sermons, you would be researching a primary source. Were you to read and study what John Piper (present day pastor and avid Jonathan Edwards fan) has written about the theology of Jonathan Edwards, then you would be conducting secondary research.
Both primary and secondary sources are very valuable when writing research papers. Usually primary research is considered to be the most reliable in that it is closest to the original (the idea originator, the eye-witness account, the photograph, etc…). A good research paper will be able to navigate both types of research and carefully integrate it appropriately. For the purposes of this assignment, you’ll be doing both because you’ll be concerned with what the great thinker actually taught and that will best be discovered by his or her actual writings, and you’ll be concerned with how his or her thoughts influenced history, which is most likely written by other scholars.
In addition to conducting primary and secondary research, you’ll need to make sure that your sources are consider scholarly; that is, your sources come from people who have appropriate expertise in the field of you are studying. This will not be an issue with your primary sources because you will go straight to the source (i.e., you’ll study the writings or Marx or Lewis), but it will be more of an issue in secondary sources. How to tell if an article or book is considered scholarly or written by an authoritative expert in the field can be tricky, but here are a few rules: 1. Does the author have an educational background that would account for the knowledge in the article or book? 2. In the case of articles, is it published in a peer-reviewed journal? 3. Does the article or book offer analysis and critique of original sources or just give mere impressions or opinions? Another term I have mentioned in regards to research is MLA citation (Modern Language...
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