This writing assignment was used in a Discourse 200 class I taught last year. It was our most significant writing assignment, and it also required that the students conduct research and create an annotated bibliography.
To the best of my ability, the assignment assessed the following SLO’s:
Interpret and analyze discourse that deals with issues of cultural and/or global diversity in a variety of forms.
Develop an advanced understanding of critical discourse analysis and critical language awareness.
Create discourse through a more sophisticated process that includes editing, proofreading, and revising multiple drafts.
Critique their own and others' works and assess their own development as producers of discourse.
Construct effective research strategies and arguments, use resources effectively, evaluate a broad range of sources, including library resources, cite information sources in compliance with established norms, and weave such scholarly sources into a longer interdisciplinary research project.
Appropriately cite sources using a consistent professional style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) at an intermediate level.
Discourse 200: Poverty and Inequality in the Modern World
Research Paper Prompt
For our research paper, you may write about any topic that clearly relates to the theme of our class, “Privilege and Inequality in the Modern World.” I have put forth a few suggestions below, but you may focus on any issue that intersects with our theme. If you are uncertain about the appropriateness of your topic, ask me about it. Below are the more specific requirements for this assignment:
Your paper must have a thesis statement. Explicitly state and underline your thesis statement. (Blackboard: See “Thesis Prompt” under “Writing Tools”)
Everything following your thesis statement must clearly work to support it.
Your paper must clearly deal with a topic that relates to our course.
Your paper must be correctly formatted according to MLA standards.
Your paper must be at least 2,700 words in length. Write the word count of your essay at the end of your paper.
You must also properly integrate several lines from at leastthree of the sources within your annotated bibliography.
A proposal for your research topic is due on Wednesday, March 10th. (A proposal is simply a one to two paragraph summary of the topic you plan to write about.)
A rough draft of your essay is due at the beginning of class on Monday, April 14th. (Bring two copies of your draft with you to class!!!) (Your rough draft must be at least 1,500 words in length.)
The final draft of your essay is due by the beginning of class on Monday, April 21st. (You will turn in your final draft on Blackboard.)
Below are a few ideas for what you might choose to write about. As long as your work clearly deals with some aspect of our course theme, however, you may write about anything you like. These are merely suggestions and ideas to help get you started.
Does our nation’s history of white supremacy (i.e., slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese Internment Camps, the slaughter of Native Americans, lynchings in the South, etc.) still have a negative influence on the present moment? In other words, even though slavery was abolished in the United States 1865, are we still recovering from the consequences of slavery? Why or why not? If your answer in this case is yes, we are still suffering from our nation’s history of racism, in what specific ways are we still suffering and what, if anything, should be done about this and why? If your answer is no, we are no longer suffering from our history of racism, when did we stop? In other words, at what point in time would you say that our society more or less completely overcame the symptoms of white supremacy?
Is Affirmative Action fair? Should it be done away with, or is it an important and necessary policy? Why?
How would you describe race relations in the United States, or anywhere else, today? In what ways have race relations improved? In what ways have they stayed the same or gotten worse? Why?
Does white privilege exist? If so, how does it exist? Where do we see it at work in our society? What steps should be taken (if any) to address this issue? If white privilege doesn’t exist, explain why this is the case? In what ways are people misunderstanding or misrepresenting this issue? (You could instead focus on male privilege or heterosexual privilege as well.)
In what ways is studying the life and music of Tupac Shakur valuable? In other words, what does Tupac’s example reveal to us about hip-hop culture, race, religion, violence, poverty, etc? Leila Steinberg claims, for example, that “we have to study Pac in every university” (qtd. in Dyson 93). Is she right? Perhaps most importantly in this regard, what does Tupac’s life and music teach us about privilege and inequality?
In Race Matters, Cornel West reminds us that “[t]o engage in a serious discussion of race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people but with the flaws of American society—flaws rooted in historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes” (6). Similarly, hip-hop artist Mos Def says that “Pac represents something that is heroic and tragic, not just for black society but for American society” (qtd in Dyson 67). What does Tupac represent for American society? Can one better understand race in America by studying Tupac? How so? Explain.
As continues to be the case with many hip-hop artists, Tupac came under fire from politicians, women’s rights organizations, organizations like the NAACP, and pundits in the media for his lyrics and the perceived messages of his music. To what extent should Tupac (or hip-hop in general) be held responsible for inner-city violence, drug use, misogyny, or any other controversial aspect of his lyrics? Can hip-hop music rightly be blamed for societal ills like those listed above? How so? Explain.
How should we perceive and understand music videos like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Are videos like this clearly sexist or are these kinds of allegations unfair?
In what ways does sexual objectification work within US culture? How prevalent is sexual objectification today? How should it be addressed?