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ENGL 1302 -- Argumentative Essay -- Prof. Thomas

This research guide shows students in Prof. Vera Thomas's ENGL 1302 students how to find information sources from the library and cite them correctly in the MLA style of documentation.

Keywords

Your first step is to select a topic, write a thesis for it, and then get approval for that thesis from Prof. Thomas. Remember that your topic must be debatable. This is not a report but an argumentative essay. You will find information sources to support your claims, but you will take a position on a debatable topic.

What makes a topic debatable? Consider, as an exercise, writing the opposite position of your thesis. For example, Prof. Thomas provides the following thesis:

  • Payday loan lenders value power over progress when it comes to helping economically disadvantaged communities because they idolize extreme capitalism, they make it nearly impossible for minorities to recover from economic crises, and they prey mercilessly on the limited resources of such communities.

The opposing side on this debate could posit the following thesis:

  • Payday loan lenders do not value power over progress when it comes to helping economically disadvantaged communities because they idolize extreme capitalism, they make it nearly impossible for minorities to recover from economic crises, and they prey mercilessly on the limited resources of such communities.

If you can propose a thesis that opposes yours, then you may have a usable topic for this assignment.

Once you have done so, you should generate keywords. Keywords are search terms that you use when searching for information about your topic. The above video explains how you can write keywords. Watch it, then continue reading this section.

Condense your topic into just a few essential words. Here are a few examples:

  • payday lending and capitalism
  • payday lending and predatory
  • payday lending and minorities
  • payday lending and poverty

Developing useful keywords requires experimentation, so try different search terms in different combinations in different databases.

Evaluating Information

Now it's time to find information sources for your argumentative paper. Prof. Thomas will grade you on, in part, the quality of your information sources. Watch this video in full to learn how to evaluate information sources.

As you search for sources for this assignment (and throughout your life in general), consider these questions:

  • Authority: What reason to you have to think that the author of this information source knows what s/he is talking about?
  • Currency: When would information on your topic go out of date? Does a source of information that you are considering qualify as up to date?
  • Objectivity: What biases does the author have? How do those biases shape the content of the information?
  • Verifiability: How could you go about verifying the author's information claims? If the author cites statistics, can you examine the methods used to generate those statistics?

Articles from Databases

Now that you have keywords, it's time to search the databases. Have you used the databases before? If you don't have recent experience with our library's databases, then I suggest watching this introductory video.

The video embedded above shows you how to search Academic Search Complete, which is a database of newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journal articles on a wide variety of topics. The link to that database is right below.

Issues & Controversies is a database designed to introduce students to controversial issues, especially political and social ones that you may have heard about in the news. If you're writing about one of those topics, it's worthwhile to explore it and learn about the arguments on different sides of a debated topic.

I find that the authors do a fine job of objectively describing the two major sides of these issues. Some of the articles are quite dated, though, so you should check the publication dates of the articles that you find to make sure that they reflect the current state of a controversial issue.

The link to Issues & Controversies is below.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is using someone else's work and giving the impression that it is yours. This video describes plagiarism in detail and how you can avoid it.

In addition to watching this video, you should look at this brochure about academic integrity from the college. It describes plagiarism and other forms of cheating as defined by the Lone Star College System.

MLA Documentation

You must cite your sources according to the MLA style of documentation.

This is our video that introduces MLA documentation. I urge you to watch the entire video carefully before starting to write your paper or annotated bibliography. It is much easier to cite correctly as you go along, rather than try to fix your documentation after you have written your paper.

This is our sample paper. When you're writing a paper, you can model the formatting of your paper after this one. If you are unsure how to set up the formatting in Microsoft Word so that it fits the requirements for MLA formatting, you could instead download this blank Word document that has the formatting already set up for you.

This is our 2-page handout that summarizes the MLA style. It includes most of the types of sources that students commonly use.

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