As the central project for this class, you will generate a 10-15 page visual rhetoric research paper that utilizes at least 8 sources (both primary and secondary in nature) to produce a persuasive source-based argument.

For your research project, you will complete a series of assignments that will culminate in both a 10 to 15 page final argumentative research paper on a visual rhetoric-oriented topic and in a photoessay on the same topic. The paper will use parenthetical documentation, informational footnotes (as appropriate), and will include a bibliography or works cited page of at least 8 sources. All documentation must follow the guidelines set out by the 6th edition of the MLA Handbook for the Writers of Research Papers. Your paper should also have a title page with a viable title. Unless otherwise indicated on the assignment sheet, all research project assignments should be computer-generated; double-spaced (note: bibliographies and outlines should be single-spaced); with appropriate margins and font; and page numbers where necessary. They should be spell-checked and proof-read. Assignments should be posted to PanFora as formatted attachments, not pasted directly into the PanFora post. Remember to read and follow each assignment carefully -- attention to detail counts. See the assignment sheet for the Research Paper Revision for more specifics about the content and layout of your paper.

Grading Criteria
I have devised the research project so that it is a process - one that begins within the first couple weeks of the quarter as you start to think about topics and that culminates on the final day of course when the last person presents his or her op-ad to the class. Accordingly, while some assignments will receive a letter grade (as noted below), many of the steps that you complete along the way are designed to facilitate your research and writing and so will not be graded - in some cases, they may be intended to be used in conjunction with class work or conference and so may not receive any formal written comments at all. However, all are an important part of the research project itself, and accordingly are mandatory. You will receive credit for the ungraded assignments that contributes to the "Informal Assignments" component of your overall grade for the class. Below I've laid out the grading breakdown for the class:

Assignments (& % of grade):

Assignments (& % of grade):
Participation - 5%
(in-class & on Panfora)
Informal assignments - 15%
Rhetorical Analysis - 10%
Contextual Analysis- 20%
Research revision - 45%
Visual Argument- 5%


Why write a research paper?

Throughout your career at Stanford, you will be asked to produce substantial source-based arguments. In PWR1, we spend a lot of time moving step by step through the research process in order to help you develop skills and techniques that you can apply to assignments for other classes in quarters to come.

What exactly do you mean by "Research Paper," anyway?

According to Prose Style: A Handbook for Writers, a research paper is a paper for which "you just gather, sort, and order a body of information on the subject." On the other hand, in a critical paper, "you also think about that information, evaluate it" (p. 232). Therefore, a critical or argumentative research paper would represent a merger of the two forms, as this writing text suggests:

In an argumentative paper, you [...] do not simply quote, paraphrase, and summarize. You interpret, question, compare, and judge the statements you cite. You explain why one opinion is sound and another is not, why one fact is relevant and another is not, why one writer is correct and another is mistaken. Your purpose may vary with your topic; you may seek to show why something happened, to recommend a course of action, to solve a problem, or present and defend a particular interpretation of a historical event or a work of art. But whether the topic is space travel or Shakespeare's Hamlet, an argumentative research paper deals actively with the statements it cites. It makes them work together in an argument that you create -- an argument that leads to a conclusion of your own. (Hefferman 495-496)

For your final project you should produce an argumentative research paper, i.e. one that proves a persuasive thesis statement with appropriate evidence. The topic is your choice, as long as it is one that you feel you can take a stand on.

This project is a complicated one, partly because it involves producing a longer finished product than you may be used to and partly because in it you will be balancing and interweaving material from primary and secondary sources with your own observations, opinions, original thoughts, and analysis.

But it will be more complicated also because, just as any decent written product represents an involved writing process, a decent research paper will have behind it, in addition and invisibly, a many-layered research process, which will include:

  1. choosing a subject, hopefully one that interests you and one for which you can find adequate research material/sources. After choosing your topic, you must narrow it to a manageable size for a research paper.
  2. preliminary research representing initial investigation of your topic, so that you can concretize your thesis and develop hypotheses that you can test during the rest of your research;
  3. accumulation of bibliographic material, some of which, after wading through it, you will discard as useless or irrelevant;
  4. close reading of primary and secondary material;
  5. compulsively careful note-taking;
  6. detailed and formal outlining of your essay, showing how you plan to organize your thoughts and integrate them with the outside material you want to use to support your arguments or analysis;
  7. the original thinking necessary to make your secondary material work to support you rather than your slaving to rationalize its presence in your work;
  8. a meticulous eye for correct form in quoting, paraphrasing, and citing your sources, both with parenthetical documentation and in your bibliography/works cited;
  9. drafting the body of your paper to put your outline to the test and to evaluate both the strong and weak points in your argument, as well as places where you need to do more research and places where you might be digressing;
  10. and a careful revision that leads to your best possible final product.

For topic ideas, read over my list of past research paper topics.

What types of sources should I use?

For this paper, sources might include a wide variety of media, not necessarily only books and articles. You might draw on film, interviews or surveys (either published or that you conduct yourself), TV programs, or internet sources, to name just a few. Keep in mind that since this is a research paper, not a rhetorical analysis, that you need a balance between both primary and secondary materials. In addition, you should use both electronic and paper sources.

Any other questions?

If you have any other questions about the research project, the research process, or research topic ideas, e-mail me or come see me during my office hours.

Works Cited

Heffernan, James & Lincoln, John. Writing: A College Handbook 3rd edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990.

Wednesday, October 8
Tour of Hoover Institute
Monday, October 13
Library Topic sheet
Wednesday, October 15
Library workshop
Monday, October 20
Abstract & Preliminary bibliography
Wednesday, October 22
Contextual Essay: Context Summary
Friday, October 24
Contextual Essay: draft 1
Monday, October 27
Contextual Essay: draft 2
Friday, October 3
Contextual Analysis Portfolio due
Monday, November 3
First Paragraph & Annotated Bibliography
Friday, November 7
Monday, November 10
Research draft #1
Wednesday, November 12
Peer review
Monday, November 17
Research Draft #2
Wednesday, November 19
Peer Review
Monday, November 24
Research project portfolio (including Revision and Research paper letter)
Monday, Dec. 1
Draft of visual argument
Wednesday, Dec 3
Visual argument revision and reflection letter
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