Touchstone 1.2: Write a Research Question, Thesis, and Outline
ASSIGNMENT: Following the Topic Selection Guidelines below, choose an argumentative topic to research. This will be your topic throughout the entire course, so the activities required for this assignment will provide the foundation for your future Touchstones. The topic for an argumentative research paper must be a debatable topic, meaning that it involves conflicting viewpoints. Additionally, it cannot be a topic that is already decided or agreed upon by most of society. You will need to take a firm position on the topic and use evidence and logic to support the position. Touchstone 1.2 includes a research question, a working thesis, a detailed outline, and a reflection on this pre-writing process.
A. Topic Selection Guidelines
DIRECTIONS: You may choose any topic you wish as long as the topic has two clear sides and is not agreed upon by most of society. Your topic should be current, appropriate for an academic context and should have a focus suitable for a 6-8 page essay.
B. Research Guidelines
DIRECTIONS: Refer to the list below throughout the writing process. Do not submit your Touchstone until it meets these guidelines.
1. Research Question and Working Thesis
Keep in mind: The research question and working thesis are the driving force behind your research and eventual argument.
❒ Your research question should be a single sentence, framed as a question.
❒ Your working thesis should be a single focused sentence, framed as a statement that takes a clear position on the research question.
❒ Include your research question followed by your working thesis.
2. Detailed Outline
Keep in mind: Your detailed outline provides a map of the argumentative research essay that you will write, including your key claims and the sources that support them. You may not have all your sources yet, and that is fine. The outline is a way to organize your essay and determine which areas (e.g. your sub-points) will require researched evidence as support.
❒ Headings: one for each paragraph with a brief label of the paragraph’s controlling idea(s); at least 7 body paragraphs, an introduction, and a conclusion
❒ Introduction includes your working thesis.
❒ Body paragraphs should each have their own unique title and key points.
❒ Conclusion includes notes on your final thoughts.
❒ Subheadings: two to five for each paragraph, below each heading, indicating key points that support the controlling idea
❒ Sources: one to three for each subheading, as relevant, indicating the support for the key point
❒ For each source, include the author’s name and the idea or information relevant to your argument (e.g. “Lappé on mono-cropping corn/soy and production”).
❒ Have you displayed a clear understanding of the research activities?
❒ Have you answered all reflection questions thoughtfully and included insights, observations, and/or examples in all responses?
❒ Are your answers included on a separate page below the main assignment?
C. Reflection Questions
DIRECTIONS: Below your assignment, include answers to all of the following reflection questions.
- Learning to conduct research is important because it is a skill you will use both in academia and in your professional life. It improves critical thinking and empowers you to find information for yourself. Consider the process of researching as a whole. What was the most challenging aspect of the process for you? (2-3 sentences)
- The working thesis statement is a proposed answer to your research question. It should clearly identify a debatable topic and take a position on one side of that topic. Analyze the effectiveness of your working thesis statement. (3-4 sentences)
- A detailed outline is an effective tool for laying out the progression of an argument. It allows you to consider the arrangement and organization of your ideas, as well as choose places to incorporate outside source materials. Review your detailed outline and summarize the argument you’ve presented. (3-4 sentences)
- You will use the same topic on three of the remaining Touchstones in this course. What kind of feedback would be helpful for you? What are specific questions you might have as you go deeper into the research process? (2-3 sentences)
Advanced (90-100%)Proficient (80-89%)Acceptable (70-79%)Needs Improvement (50-69%)Non-Performance (0-49%)
Pose a meaningful research question on a debatable topic.Constructs a precise and focused research question relative to a current and debatable topic.Constructs a focused research question relative to a debatable topic.Constructs a research question relative to a debatable topic; however it is somewhat too broad or too narrow for the assignment.Constructs a research question; however, the question is too broad or too narrow for the assignment and/or it is not debatable.Does not construct a research question, or constructs a research question that does not meet any of the rubric criteria.
Propose a focused working thesis.Includes a working thesis that takes a well-articulated, clear, specific position on one side of an issue.Includes a working thesis that takes a clear, specific position on one side of an issue.Includes a working thesis that takes a clear position on one side of an issue; however it lacks specificity.Includes a working thesis; however, it lacks specificity and does not take a clear position.Does not include a working thesis, or includes a thesis that does not take a position.
Present a detailed outline that includes coherent headings, subheadings, and source placement notes.Outline is thoroughly developed and clearly labeled with effective notes, such that the reader can easily see how the essay will build its argument; all necessary elements of the outline are present.Outline is well-developed and labeled with sufficient notes, such that the reader can get a sense of how the essay will build its argument; all necessary elements of the outline are present.Outline is primarily well-developed and labeled with sufficient notes, such that the reader can get an overall sense of how the essay will build its argument; however, a few necessary elements may be unclear or missing.Outline is not fully developed and/or labeling and notes are often unclear, such that the reader cannot easily get a sense of how the essay will build its argument; several necessary elements of the outline are unclear or missing.Outline is not developed and/or labeling and notes are unclear or absent, such that the reader is unable to see how the essay will build its argument; most necessary elements of the outline are unclear or missing.
Establish a consistent, informative tone and make thoughtful stylistic choices.Demonstrates thoughtful and effective word choices, avoids redundancy and imprecise language, and uses a wide variety of sentence structures.Demonstrates effective word choices, primarily avoids redundancy and imprecise language, and uses a variety of sentence structures.Demonstrates generally effective style choices, but may include occasional redundancies, imprecise language, poor word choice, and/or repetitive sentence structures.Frequently includes poor word choices, redundancies, imprecise language, and/or repetitive sentence structures.Consistently demonstrates poor word choices, redundancies, imprecise language, and/or repetitive sentence structures.
Follow conventions for standard written English.There are only a few, if any, negligible errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are occasional minor errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are some significant errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are frequent significant errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are consistent significant errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.
Answer reflection questions thoroughly and thoughtfully.Demonstrates thoughtful reflection; consistently includes insights, observations, and/or examples in all responses, following or exceeding response length guidelines.Demonstrates thoughtful reflection; includes multiple insights, observations, and/or examples, following response length guidelines.Primarily demonstrates thoughtful reflection, but some responses are lacking in detail or insight; primarily follows response length guidelines.Shows limited reflection; the majority of responses are lacking in detail or insight, with some questions left unanswered or falling short of response length guidelines.No reflection responses are present.
The following requirements must be met for your submission to be graded:
- Double-space the outline and use one-inch margins.
- Use a readable 12-point font.
- All writing must be appropriate for an academic context.
- Composition must be original and written for this assignment.
- Plagiarism of any kind is strictly prohibited.
- Submission must include your name, the name of the course, the date, and the title of your composition.
- Submission must include your research question, working thesis, outline, and reflection questions.
- Include all of the assignment components in a single file.
- Acceptable file formats include .doc, .docx, and .pdf.
F. Additional Resources
The following resources will be helpful to you as you work on this assignment:
- Purdue Online Writing Lab’s APA Formatting and Style Guide
- This site includes a comprehensive overview of APA style, as well as individual pages with guidelines for specific citation types.
- Frequently Asked Questions About APA Style
- This page on the official APA website addresses common questions related to APA formatting. The “References,” “Punctuation,” and “Grammar and Writing Style” sections will be the most useful to your work in this course.
- APA Style: Quick Answers—References
- This page on the official APA Style website provides numerous examples of reference list formatting for various source types.