Whatever Topic you choose

Length 450 words
Works Cited 3 Works Cited Items
Due Tue, April 11, by midnight.
Turned in where? Blackboard and Interactive Web

For draft 4.1 we will do something different from the semester essay cycle issues. I think the 3 essay cycles have been good for you to delve deeper and deeper into a particular issue, but now it’s time for something different.

So for your final essay cycle in this class, a 3 draft cycle, you will write about something different, but you can’t just pick a subject out of the air. You will look at a current major newspaper, one dated April 4 through April 11, 2017. The newspapers can be the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle, the Austin-American Statesman, or the San Antonio Express-News.

Look at the headlines in one of these newspapers on the dates I’ve given and pick a headline that

  1. you are interested in,
  2. you think you can find information on in academic databases as well as current publications, and
  3. you are willing to research responsibly.

By “headlines” I mean anything in the newspaper that has a headline: anything. But you should be careful not to choose a headline that has a subject that is not topical enough or large enough to have people studying and writing about it in responsible academic journals. You would be surprised what you can find in academic journals, but if it’s too kitchy or too current, you may not find much.

For this first draft, explore what you think makes the subject interesting to a reader and would encourage him or her to read about it. You probably should not just grab a subject from a headline, the first one that appeals to you. Instead, you should check the subject out in Wikipedia and see if it seems like the sort of thing that could be profitably researched and written about. Usually you can tell that by the number of references at the end of the Wikipedia article.

Remember, this is the first draft of a 3-draft essay cycle.

Don’t agonize too much over this draft. I won’t be grading on grammar and usage as I do in the final draft, the “clean copy” draft. Here you should find something in the newspapers that you yourself are interested in, look it up in Wikipedia, look up a couple of sources, and write 450 words on what you think you want to write about and why.

Let’s say you read a description of how Orangutans are being “orphaned” as people burn down the rain forests. You could do research on endangered species; what is a “rain forest”; how many rain forests are we losing and where; WHY are we losing rain forests; what species depend on these exotic terrains; what have people done, or not done, to protect the rain forests; and so forth. One thing leads to another, and that opens the door for exploratory research.

What if you read a headline about the melting of the polar ice cap. What could you research and write about that? Plenty. What is the latest on climate change science, what are the political issues? Rush Limbaugh calls man-made climate change a “hoax, a fantasy, a liberal plot.” Lots to dig into there.

Or, for instance, what I am reading right now in The Washington Post: “What life with pot looks like in a country where it’s been basically legal for 40 years.” The article is about legal pot in Denmark. Can you write 1350 words on that? Sure! Expand the topic to legalizing pot and comparing American experience with Denmark’s or any other place where pot is legal. See where the correlative ideas lead, and follow them and research them. Piece of cake.

Or another Washington Post headline today: “Use of the death penalty is way down in recent years. Support for it is not.” Many avenues to pursue on that one.

The point is that now that you are an experienced researcher, you should be able to come up with an angle on anything in the newspapers these days, even in academic databases. With a little thinking and reading, and imagination, you should be able to take most headlines out of a newspaper and write fine 1350-word research essays on them.

In this final essay cycle, you are allowed to talk about yourself … a little! Here you can analyze what about your headline selection appeals to you. Maybe you love Steve Jobs because you really identify with Apple computers and the renegade image, or you really like movies in which there is a lot of talking and almost no action, or the subplot about Jobs rejecting his daughter for some reason (?) appeals to you. So about a fifth (no more) can be an analysis of your attraction to the subject of essay cycle 4. This doesn’t mean you blather uncontrollably, but that you genuinely try to figure out what about the headline you chose rang your bell.

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