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Pick a topic below and write a research paper with at least 5 pages and 5 resources.

1. Should the death penalty apply to juveniles? Why or why not?

2. Will the death penalty cure the victim’s family? Why or why not?

3. Can we consider a death penalty as a means of revenge and not the means of punishment?

It is clear after reading hundreds of college “research papers” that
students are NOT receiving the proper training in how to write a research paper.
Accordingly, I have attempted herein to outline a few of the elements I feel are necessary
to draft an adequate research paper, regardless of its content.
You should expect to meet the following requirements when
submitting a research paper: You should use 8 ½ x 11 white paper, a font size of 10 or
12, a legible “clean” type face such as Arial or New Times Roman (no italics), and it
should be double spaced with a one (1) inch margin all around; each sheet of paper
should have printing on only one side (no double sided printing will be accepted); there
should be no cover or binding, a single staple in the upper left hand corner is sufficient;
there should be a cover sheet indicating the name of the research topic, the student’s
name, the name of the professor, the class (name, number & section or period) for which
the project was completed, and the date it is submitted; you may have a “Table of
Contents” or “Index” as your second page, although this is generally not required; all
pages must be sequentially numbered beginning with the first page containing the
“Introduction”; a “Work Cited” page is required at the end of the paper (unless you are
using the “Chicago” system, so called, in which case you will have a “Bibliography” at
the end of the document). The Cover Sheet, Index, Endnotes or Work Cited pages do
NOT count toward the total number of required pages for the project. Your failure to
meet these requirements will usually result in a grade reduction of up to ten (10) points.
As ridiculous as it sounds, to write a successful research paper you
must actually do research. Admittedly, this may include the preliminary use of
encyclopedias such as Wikipedia, on-line dictionaries or even a text book. However,
citing in a paper to a dictionary, encyclopedia, or textbook is generally an admission that
you have done virtually no in-depth, or follow-on, research; and will usually result in a
grade reduction of up to ten (10) points. With the on-line tools and library facilities
(computers, Lexis/Nexis, etc.) available to a student today it is inexcusable not to do
proper research. So, how many citations (or information sources) do you need for a
research paper? It seems to me that you should have, as a bare minimum, at least as
many sources as the number of pages required in the project (i.e. a ten (10) page paper
should have a minimum of ten (10) plus sources). Notice the use of words such as
“minimum” and “at least”; a good paper will exceed this base by a large margin. The
failure to show a genuine attempt at complying with this necessary component of a
research assignment will always result in a point reduction of up to twenty (20) points.
It is absolutely necessary to use a formal system for
identifying where in the body of the paper your research appears. Citations provide the
factual underpinnings for the matter(s) you are asserting in your paper. What should be
cited? Except for your “Introduction” and “Conclusion”, just about any and every factual
assertion you make (that is not common knowledge, ex. the earth revolves around the
sun) should be supported by a reference. What system of citation should you use? While
I have a personal preference for the “Chicago” system (Chicago Manual of Style)
(), I recognize that there
are several other very good systems that you could adopt such as the MLA (Modern
Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association)
(). Each has strengths and weaknesses. I
prefer the “Chicago” style because it uses footnotes (or endnotes) which are less
disruptive to the flow of the written text since the references are not imbedded therein (as
in MLA & APA). For most classes I generally do not care which system you pick but
use only one and use it well. However, if you are doing LEGAL RESEARCH (an
article, memorandum, brief, etc.) you must use the Chicago System. If you hand in a
paper that does not contain citations and/or footnotes you have written either an opinion
piece or committed plagiarism. You have NOT produced a research paper. While your
opinions are important, and in fact sought, a research paper is about what you have
discovered to “support” those opinions. If the paper contains more than just your
opinions (i.e. factual assertions), but has no citations or footnotes, then it is plagiarized.
Citations and/or footnotes are an absolute necessity in a research project. The failure to
have any citations or footnotes will result in the receipt of a failing grade of zero (0) for
your project; while errors in citation will generally result in a point reduction of up to
fifteen (15) points.
Work Cited (References):
If you are using the “Chicago” system, generally at
the end of the article (or after the endnotes) there is a “Bibliography” listing all the works
consulted for the project, whether cited or not. If you are using the MLA or APA you
need to create a “Work Cited” (sometimes referred to as “References”) page which
appears at the end of your paper listing all of the articles/books/etc. you have actually
used in your paper. Normally the references are presented in alphabetical order
according to the author’s last name. A common format is: author’s name, title of work
(in italics), where it was published or by whom, the date of publication, page references,
and (if appropriate). The failure to have a Work Cited (or its
equivalent) page will result in a failing grade of zero (0); errors in your work cited page
will usually result in a point reduction of up to ten (10) points.
Drafting Suggestions:
Use the 3rd Person – no “I”, “We” or “Me”: A research paper is not a
conversational document. It is a formal presentation of your thoughts and analysis
supported by primary and secondary sources. As such, the author usually does NOT
speak in the “1st person”. It is not about you, it is about what the research supports. That
is not to say that you can not have a point of view. Of course you have opinions about
your paper’s topic. But a research paper is not about your opinions; it is about what your
research supports. Research papers are normally written in the “3rd person”. This gives
your paper an aura of objectivity and authority. Accordingly, the words “I’, ‘we” or “me”
should almost never appear in a research paper.
Past Tense: Almost everything you will write about in a research paper has
already happened. When you describe it in your paper you should always use the past
tense. Guard against using the present tense, and/or mixing up your tenses during your
drafting. It will definitely affect the quality of your presentation. When proof reading
your paper, you should exclusively review your use of tenses, at least once.
Active v. Passive Voice: One of the repetitive problems seen in student writing is
the use of the passive rather than active voice. This is usually a mistake and makes
sentences overly wordy and difficult to understand. The active voice requires a direct
approach when drafting. With the active voice there is: an actor, an action, and an object
(in that order). It is a simple and direct way to relate any concept or scenario (ex. The
President signed the bill into law). The passive voice usually transposes the object with
the actor; thereby disguising who actual did the action (ex. The bill was signed into law
by the President). A direct result of this exchange is that the word count must go up.
Simple is better. The passive voice should only be used intentionally. The active voice
should always be your default setting.
Word Count: Another common problem is extremely long and confusing
sentences. The ‘rule of thumb’ is that if your sentence has grown to over 20 words – it is
probably to long! You need to rethink the sentence. Examine the possibility of breaking
the sentence down into several shorter sentences. Look to see if you are using the passive
as opposed to active voice (see the preceding paragraph). Consider changing the way the
sentence is structured by switching to the active voice. This will always result in the use
of fewer words. If you are striving for clarity of thought, simpler and shorter is usually
the better choice.
Proof Your Work: You must proof your work – several times. This means you
have to finish your paper at least a day or two before the deadline The first and second
time you proof your work should be a general review for spelling and grammar. After
that, each subsequent review should be aimed at a specific issue of concern, such as: are
the citations accurate, have the proper tenses been used consistently throughout the paper,
etc. Consider having someone, whose language skills you respect, proof your paper for
an objective review of your work. You should also plan to put the paper away for a
period of time (at least a couple of hours – preferably a day or two) to clear your head.
Then come back to the document with a fresh eye. You will be surprised at how many
mistakes you missed earlier.

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