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.