An American Research Essay


The Purpose

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For the third essay of the semester, you will construct an argumentative essay in which you respond to an argument extracted from our text, Citizen. Your response will acknowledge the argument (as presented in the text) and explore your own research-based perspective on the topic. The act of researching (seeking out, assessing, and evaluating sources) will be a key component of future academic and career endeavors (as well as helping you become more informed and aware citizens).


The Writing Task

Your primary objective for this paper will be to make a well informed, carefully considered contribution to an on-going conversation or debate about an argument presented in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. You will need to include research, but your idea must be the dominant idea in the paper (do not just regurgitate information or parrot a preexisting argument). Your source material is meant to support your argument and add to your credibility as a researcher and a scholar.


Some Helpful Steps

You will be encouraged to generate a list of potential topics once we have finished reading the text and secondary materials, but here are some subjects to consider:

Race and Racism
Language/Writing (and how they shape “reality.”)
Public/Private Image
Once you have identified topics to explore, you will want to think about what Rankine’s Citizen SAYS about the topic. One way to do this is to combine multiple topics into a sequence of “cause and effect.” (ex: How Racism affects everyday experiences for People of Color in America). This example is purposefully vague so that you can come up with your own specific argument.

Once you have identified the argument, you will want to develop a research question that will direct your thoughts and inquiries about the subject. Remember, the argument presented in the novel is the perspective of the speaker, and you want to explore the topic beyond the scope of what the speaker has. The goal of the research question is to generate a research-based answer, which will be, in some shape and form, your thesis.

Think about the following as you begin to form your argumentative stance on your topic:

How do you see your topic at work in our society today?
What kind of correlations can you draw between the world within the text and our own?
How does the text inform or complicate your thoughts on your topic?
What are the larger consequences of your topic?
How will your idea fit into a larger societal conversation, and what can you contribute?
Remember, you are not answering these questions directly; they are meant to help you generate your own ideas.

Criteria for Success

Your essay should be a minimum of six full pages (not including your works cited page), in standard MLA format, and include a Works Cited page.
I will also expect you to correctly cite your secondary sources in-text and on your Works Cited page using standard MLA format.
Your essay makes substantial and relevant use of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.
Your essay makes substantial and relevant use of a minimum of three (3) credible sources that you have found in your own research.

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