Advanced Research Project Part I:
Sources, Quotations, Planning, Thesis


Your goal in this assignment is to perform the research required for a sophisticated undergraduate research essay and plan how to use your sources to support a thesis. To that end, you must find useful sources of various types, quote specific passages from them that you would plan to use, explain how you would plan to make use of these quotations, offer a possible thesis for an essay that would result from this project, and cite your research according to MLA or APA guidelines. Doing all of this successfully means that writing the essay becomes a matter of focusing on organization, coherence, clarity, and style. When you fail to do that, your position is likely to be similar to that of a carpenter who finds halfway through a project that he needs to find and cut more wood. Completing this assignment successfully means you have accomplished all the intellectual heavy-lifting before you need to focus on the writing itself.

Here are two sample research projects. The first examines how General Motors developed and then abandoned its first electric car project. The second examines issues of gender in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and was created for a different course; some of the specific requirements, such as the number and types of sources required, are not the same as on your assignment, and the citation format is no longer current. Still, these can serve as useful models.

Step One: Find Sources

Secondary Sources

You must quote at least six secondary sources, including

One or more scholarly books:  Useful books for this project can be of two types:

A) A book that focuses on a single topic and maintains a coherent narrative and argument from beginning to end. This type of book usually has a single author, or occasionally two who work collaboratively.

B) A book that is actually collection of essays by different authors. Sometimes the essays have been published before; sometimes they are commissioned especially for the book.  The book itself usually addresses a single topic to which all the specific essays are in some way relevant.

Note:  Encyclopedias do not count as acceptable sources. You may use them to help get you started on your research, but you should not be quoting them for your readers.

Three or more articles published in journals: This means essays or articles you find in peer-reviewed academic journals or respected trade journals. Databases such as Expanded Academic and J-STOR can be good places to start looking, but as we have discussed, sometimes you will have more success if you use databases devoted specifically to your discipline. The article usually will not have been published before, unless it is a translation. The journal’s focus may be specific or broad, but again at least part of the article should deal specifically with the topic. You may obtain these sources in hard-copy or electronically, provided they initially appeared in print. Note that book reviews are not acceptable sources; if you find a book review that offers some useful ideas, find the book being reviewed and quote it directly.

Zero or more electronic sources: This can be a video-documentary, an on-line journal — meaning an academic, peer-reviewed journal published entirely on the web — or a scholarly web-site. (But not just any web-site: just because Steve has a web-page devoted to your topic does not mean he is worth quoting, especially if he also lists Nickelback as his favorite musical group and the Olive Garden as his favorite restaurant.)  Other sources may be possible, but check them with me.

Primary Sources

Primary sources include most government documents, published or personally performed interviews, first-hand accounts, and all creative works, including literary texts, films, musical recordings and scores, photographs, and so on. You may or may not need to cite some primary sources in your essay, and if you do, the type and number will vary widely depending on your topic. For this part of the research project, all you need to do is list these sources in your works cited or list of references.

The exception is if you have a primary source that you are using as a scholarly source. For example, if you quote an interview with an expert and wish to use it as the source of a Type 1quotation, then list that quotation after the secondary source quotations and respond to it the same way (see below).

Step Two: Choose Useful Passages to Quote

You must find a total of eight quotations you foresee being useful in your essay, and no more than two can be from any one source. These quotations should be long enough to give you something to work with but not so long that they would overwhelm your essay.  No more than two of them, therefore, should be long enough to require setting off (which in MLA and Chicago means longer than four lines and in APA longer than forty words), these two cannot be from the same source, and even those two must be no more than one hundred words each.

To be useful, a quotation must require citation. Therefore, it must either offer the author’s judgment (Type 1 quotations) or present information that resulted specifically from the author’s or authors’ efforts (Type 2 quotations). Basic factual information does not require citation. For this assignment, I do not want you quoting just because you like an author’s phrasing (Type 3 quotations).

For this assignment, at least five of your quotations must be Type 1. Type 2 quotations are optional; some research topics are more likely to need to quote proprietary research than others.

Generally, when quoting any source, you will want to quote at least one complete clause (or a verb-phrase for which you supply the subject) but no more than three or four sentences, depending on their length. If you quote less than one full clause, conveying the original meaning becomes difficult and readers may suspect you are distorting what the source says, but if you quote more than a few sentences, either you cannot respond fully or the source starts to take over your essay. Each quotation should be in the proper format and cited parenthetically. All aspects of the quotation and citation form must be correct.

A quotation also must be comprehensible: quote in a way that the ideas in the quotation are clear. If, in order for that to happen, you need to set up a quotation with a brief introductory tag, conclude a quotation with a few words that complete a thought, or as a last resort insert a one- or two-word bracketed explanation somewhere within the quotation, please do so.

Rarely is quoting second-hand acceptable. If you find that one of your sources has taken a quotation from another source, you have a responsibility to find that original source unless you cannot be reasonably expected to do so. Legitimate reasons for not obtaining the original source of the quotation include 1) it is an unpublished source, such as personal correspondence or recollection of a conversation, 2) it was published in a different language, or 3) it is an old or rare book that you cannot obtain. Otherwise, you must acquire any source you quote.

Your document should list the quotations, Type 1 quotations first, organized by the categories of the sources. Within each category, list the quotations alphabetically by author’s last name. Each quotation must be properly formatted and cited with a parenthetical citation.

Step Three: Comment on the Quotations

For each of the Type 1 quotations, write a short explanation of how you plan to use it as a warrant a particular claim.  You have two basic options, and within each of those options you have two options as well:

1) You agree with your source:

A)  Extension — You plan to build on the source’s argument in some way that the original source does not, using the point the quotation makes to help you make a point of your own. A good test of this use of the quotation is that you can mentally insert the phrase “If this is true, then we can go further and say this” between the quotation and your commentary (note that I said mentally).  In this case, you should of course explain what that point is in some detail. Extending the quotation means you are moving slightly upward on the scale of abstraction.

B)  Application — You plan to apply the quotation in a way the original source did not. For example, if you quote a scholar’s comment on a particular historical event, such as a battle or an election, then discuss how that same observation applies to a different battle or election, then you are applying the quotation in a new way. Alternatively, if a source makes a slightly broader comment (further up the Scale of Abstraction), you can use it by applying it to a specific example. A good test of this use of the quotation is if you can mentally insert the phrase “This helps us understand another (or a specific) situation” between the quotation and your commentary (again, mentally). In this case, you must explain how the quotation is relevant to the work you are discussing. Applying a quotation means you are either staying on the same level of the scale of abstraction or moving downward.

2) You disagree with your source:

A)  Logical Rebuttal — You think your source draws a false conclusion because of faulty reasoning. In Toulmin terms, you believe the claim is bad because the warrant is faulty. This may involve a recognizable logical fallacy, or it may just be a case in which you think the warrant does not hold up.

B)  Evidentiary Rebuttal — You think your source draws a false conclusion because of bad evidence. In Toulmin terms, you believe the claim is bad because the grounds are faulty. The usual problem is not that the evidence your source presents is bad, but that he or she ignores contrary evidence.

You must rebut (for either reason) at least one quotation. For the remaining quotations, the choice is up to you.

Put your comment on each quotation directly under the quotation. Label each comment Extend, Apply, Rebut Logically, or Rebut with Evidence.

For any Type 2 quotations, write a short explanation of how you plan to use it as grounds for a claim. Note that you should not claim to extend, apply, or rebut Type 2 quotations. Once does not extend, apply, or rebut facts.

Step Four: Offer a Thesis Statement 
After all the quotations and commentary, type “Thesis:” and then create a one or two sentence thesis that you think will give you an opportunity to use all of the quotations you have analyzed in your project as support. The thesis should be concise, well-written, and conform to all the principles on the Writing Center’s Guidelines on Thesis Statements.
Step Five: Title the Project and Include a Properly Formatted Works Cited or Reference Page
Your works cited or reference page should include correct and complete entries for each of your sources, and it should be properly formatted: double-spaced (as the quotations and your text should be as well), alphabetized, but not separated into categories. You should title your project with a possible title for the essay itself.

The discussion of how you plant to use each quotation should be a short paragraph consisting of 3-5 sentences. The thesis should should be a single sentence, though if you need to set it up with a few prefatory sentences, you may. However, the sentence you consider your thesis should definitely be the final sentence you provide. The Works Cited or References page should be its own page.

Come to class with three hard-copies of your project. In addition, prior to class you must send the document directly to me at as a .doc or .docx attachment to an e-mail message.


After receiving feedback from your peers in the peer response session, you will revise this project and submit it to me for evaluation.

Submit the document directly to me by e-mail. Along with the essay you must submit a reflective commentary. Attach both the essay and the reflective commentary to the same e-mail.

Submit these to me directly at as .doc or .docx attachments to an e-mail message. Note: It is your responsibility to make sure your documents attach. You can confirm this by examining the message in your sent message folder. If you send me an e-mail saying “Here is my project” and no documents are attached, the essay has not been submitted.

For this assignment, I will complete a rubric — a document listing the various factors that determine the quality of the project. The factors are divided into two categories: Content issues and Grammatical and Stylistic issues. All of the individual scores in each category are averaged, and then I multiply these two averages together to determine a percentage, which I multiply by the 25 points (out of 100) available in the course.
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