Source the internet

Source the internet, especially news sites, looking for oppressions and its victims   This topic can and SHOULD BE be a local, national, or international social justice problem that, for some reason, interests you.  You’ll be conducting background research to find the specific types of sources called for in this assignment, and compose a 4-5 page essay that explains the background of the problem or issue and its social justice context explores and analyzes at least one social justice theory and 4 background sources identifies a series of questions for further research (topic proposal) 

Research is the primary way in which intellectuals engage with one another, share information, and educate themselves about their interests.  The goal of research is learning, so you don’t need to know anything about your topic before you get started, but you do need to have curiosity!  Bruce Ballenger reminds us, “Your curiosity must be the driving force behind your research” (24).  In other words, it’s better to be genuinely interested in your topic than it is to be an “expert” on it—as you conduct research, you will build up authority on your subject.  

This essay represents an important step in the research process.  Conducting good background research helps you understand the larger conversation about a problem or issue: 

What is the social, political, and/or historical context of the problem or issue you’ve selected?

Who are the stakeholders and important players?  What are their concerns and suggestions? 

What are the significant debates, and how might your perspective contribute something meaningful to the discussion? 

What solutions have already been tried?  Did they work or didn’t they? Why? 

The types of sources I’m asking you to find for this assignment are meant to help you answer these questions, orient you within the public discussion about this topic, and prepare you for academic research. 

You are welcome to choose almost any topic you like, as long as you have a genuine curiosity and specific interest in the subject, and as long as the topic can be approached from a social justice perspective.  Some topics are generally prohibited, but may be approved if you are interested in perusing a new angle (legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, abortion, capital punishment, sex trafficking, and public prayer are all generally prohibited topics.  Bleh).  

Everyone’s essay should address the following requirements:

Purpose/Project:  Your purpose is to explore and explain the background of the problem or issue you’ve selected, in order to find the most appropriate ways to engage with and participate in the larger conversation about the problem or issue.  Your specific goal is to arrive at a question or series of questions for further scholarly research (topic proposal).

When you aim to explore a topic, you don’t start with a claim you want to prove, but with a question you want to answer.  At this stage, your question might still be pretty vague, such as “What are the current proposals for reforming public schools in the U.S.?”  or “What can pop culture’s obsession with zombies tell us about current cultural attitudes toward immigration?”  (ok, that last one took me a few pre-questions to get to ).  The best way to come to these questions is to start with real world problems.  Hopefully, you’ve already looked at some news stories that have piqued your interest, events that can be framed as oppressions, complete with an oppressor, a victim, and an activist.  As we talked about in class, you should NOT already know the answer to your question when you get started.  More often than not, you need to do a little background reading before you can generate a useful question. 

Your materials will include at least one of each of the following:

a social justice theory from class (Mill, Barry--any of those book chapters--hooks, or Shiva)

an article from a subject-specific encyclopedia

a topic-specific popular magazine and/or newspaper article

a topic-appropriate organizational web page

an essay or article from a topic-specific blog

Please note: the above sources are considered “background” or “reference” materials.  They are not considered “scholarly” sources.  One of the goals of this assignment is to help you learn the difference between the two!

Your methods will include summarizing sources and analyzing them for patterns and trends, such as disagreements/debates, important people/places/events, approaches to answering your question, and new/better questions to ask.  In general, you want to find out who’s talking about this, what they’re saying, why it matters, and to whom it matters. 

Organization:  The essay should have a clear lead paragraph, in which you explain your motivation for researching this problem or issue; the essay should have a body, in which you explain the theoretical groundwork of the issue (what makes this a social justice problem, and from whose perspective?) and explore the background and context of the problem or issue (compare, analyze, and evaluate your sources); the essay should have a clear conclusion, in which you discuss how/whether the materials you’ve found help you answer your initial question(s), and what further questions you would like to explore in the next stages of your project.

Each paragraph should emphasize an idea, question, or connection that you would like to discuss.  In other words, your essay should emphasize your own ideas, using source materials to support and explain your ideas.  See the Topic Sentence Revision worksheet for help. 

Clever Title:  Your title should say something useful, specific, and informative about the topic of your essay and your motivation for researching.  It has to be clever, too—this will help you connect with your reader. 

Works Cited Page:  All of your sources, including the social justice theory, should be properly cited, using MLA citation style.  

Your paper must be a minimum of 1200 words, but should not exceed ,1500 words!  (this doesn’t include the Works Cited page)  Papers shorter than 1200 words may not earn a passing grade.

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