The death sentence

Research Paper Proposal, Annotated Bibliography, and Research Paper Prompt


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For your final research paper, you will choose your own topic. These types of papers are easier if you focus on a topic that is a “hot-button issue.” You are free to focus on something a bit more obscure, but it may be difficult to find sources.

Research Paper Requirements

  • Must be 8 full pages in its final draft
  • Must follow MLA style and formatting guidelines – double spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font
  • Must have proper in-text citations and Works Cited page
  • Must include a minimum of 5 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources
  • Must address at least 1 counterargument
  • No first personpronouns. Avoid second person pronouns(unless using it strategically)



November 8 – Research Paper Proposal/Exploratory paper due

November 15 – Annotated bibliography due

November 23 – 29 – Workshop Week – Draft must be a minimum of 4 pages

***December 3 – Final paper due – Upload to Canvas by 11:59 PM. Note: This is a Thursday, which is different from your other assignment due dates.



Exploratory Paper/Research Paper Proposal


Before you write your research paper, you will write an exploratory paper/research paper proposal. These two assignments go together; the work you do for the exploratory paper will be used in your research paper. In the exploratory paper, you will not state a thesis as you would in a typical paper. In this paper, you are giving an objective analysis of the issue. This means that rather than arguing your opinion on the issue, you are writing more like a reporter, describing and explaining the issue. The specific requirements for this paper are as follows:


Paragraph 1: Explain the issue. (5 points)

Paragraph 2: Describe the rhetorical situation (historical background information, what events have caused the debate, and who is involved). (5 points)

Paragraph 3-5: Summarize three positions on the issue along with some reasons for each of them. For each paragraph, you must use a scholarly, peer-reviewed source. (10 points each)

Paragraph 6: Explain you interest in the issue. Why did you choose the issue? (5 points)

Paragraph 7: Make a tentative claim that sets forth your position.(5 points)

*You must include a minimum of three sources in this essay*

*You may use first person in paragraphs 6 and 7 only



Due: November 8























Annotated Bibliography


Along with your research paper, you are expected to complete an annotated bibliography. For the annotated bibliography, you will need to complete a citation and annotation for a minimum of 5 scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. There is a sample annotated bibliography in the course Files.

In your annotation:

  • Provide a full citation for the source
  • Provide a brief summary of the article
  • Assess the strength of the article
  • Reflect on how you might utilize the article in your research paper

You may also document anything that you consider useful, but be sure you meet the minimum guidelines listed above.


This will be graded according to the following criteria:

  • Quantity of the sources
  • Quality/reliability of the sources
  • Variety of the sources
  • Writing fluency of the annotations
  • MLA formatting


Due: November 15










Stem Cell Research – Annotated Bibliography

Holland, Suzanne. The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy. Boston: MIT Press, 2001. Print.

This is the annotation of the above source, which is formatted according to MLA 2009 (7th ed.) guidelines for the bibliographic information listed above. If one were really writing an annotation for this source, one would offer a brief summary of what this book says about stem cell research.

After a brief summary, it would be appropriate to assess this source and offer some criticisms of it. Does it seem like a reliable and current source? Why? Is the research biased or objective? Are the facts well documented? Who is the author? Is she qualified in this subject? Is this source scholarly, popular, some of both?

The length of your annotation will depend on the assignment or on the purpose of your annotated bibliography. After summarizing and assessing, you can now reflect on this source. How does it fit into your research? Is this a helpful resource? Too scholarly? Not scholarly enough? Too general/specific? Since “stem cell research” is a very broad topic, has this source helped you to narrow your topic?

Senior, K. “Extending the Ethical Boundaries of Stem Cell Research. “Trends in Molecular Medicine 7 (2001): 5-6. Print.

Not all annotations have to be the same length. For example, this source is a very short scholarly article. It may only take a sentence or two to summarize. Even if you are using a book, you should only focus on the sections that relate to your topic.

Not all annotated bibliographies assess and reflect; some merely summarize. That may not be the most helpful for you, but, if this is an assignment, you should always ask your instructor for specific guidelines.

Wallace, Kelly. “Bush Stands Pat on Stem Cell Policy.” CNN. 13 August 2001. 17 August 2001. Television.

Using a variety of sources can help give you a broader picture of what is being said about your topic. You may want to investigate how scholarly sources are treating this topic differently than more popular sources. But again, if your assignment is to only use scholarly sources, then you will probably want to avoid magazines and popular web sites.

The bibliographic information above is proper MLA format (use whatever style is appropriate in your field) and the annotations are in paragraph form. Note also that the entries are alphabetized by the first word in the bibliographic entry. If you are writing an annotated bibliography with many sources, it may be helpful to divide the sources into categories. For example, if putting together an extensive annotated bibliography for stem cell research, it might be best to divide the sources into categories such as ethical concerns, scholarly analyses, and political ramifications.

For more examples, a quick search at a library or even on the Internet should produce several examples of annotated bibliographies in your area.


Sample MLA Annotation

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor Books, 1995.

Lamott’s book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott’s book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one’s own internal critic.

In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun. Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one’s own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students’ own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott’s style both engaging and enjoyable.


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