writing a standard research paper

Guidelines for Writing Your Final Paper

Note: If you choose to do a final project that is other than a traditional research paper, the specific guidelines for your project will be worked out individually in consultation with


If you are writing a standard research paper, your paper should be a minimum of

approximately 7 pages (if doing an oral presentation) or 9 pages (if not doing an oral

presentation). This assumes double-spacing and a normal sized font, e.g. Times New

Roman, 12 pt. The papers can certainly be longer if you wish.


You will be asked to hand in your initial topic idea(s) and your preference concerning an

oral presentation by Tuesday, October 29th. A short (one or two paragraph) description

of your paper and a brief list of helpful resources that you have found will be due by

Sunday, November 10th. The final paper will be due during our final class gathering

during final exam week.


Your paper should be written specifically for this course. You should not ‘recycle’ a

paper from another class, from high school, etc. If you want to engage in deepened

work on a topic that you have explored in another class, please discuss this with me.


The format of the paper will vary depending upon the type of topic that is chosen. For

example, if you choose to explore a debated ethical issue, a likely format would be to

present the arguments that are made on each side of the issue and then provide your own

analysis of the arguments and an explanation of your own position on the topic. Other

papers may be more historical in nature, or may focus on exploring the causes and

possible responses to a particular social problem.


Regardless of topic, it is important that each paper have a constructive dimension,

e.g. highlighting what is being done or could be done to constructively to address the

issue being explored, or reflecting upon what lessons can be learned from studying a

particular historical case, person, movement, etc.


If the topic that you are writing on has been examined in class, you should be sure to

make some reference to the course readings related to that topic. You should not,

however, use only the course readings. You should find other significant sources of your

own to examine additional aspects of the topic.


As to citing sources, you should follow one of the standard styles of documentation for

your paper (e.g. Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, etc.), using either complete footnotes or

using parenthetical notes and a full bibliography at the end of the paper. If you are citing

from a book or journal, be sure to include the page number. If you use internet sources,

please be sure to give the full address of the article, not just the general address of the

website. Footnotes in the Chicago style are preferred, but any standard style is acceptable.

For more information on the Chicago style, see



If you have any questions concerning your project/paper, feel free to make an

appointment with me to discuss them. I would be very glad to meet with you.