Research Essay Assignment Guidelines

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Research Essay Assignment Guidelines

Research Essay Assignment Guidelines

Format: MLA

Word Count: 1800 words minimum


  • to explore a particular topic/issue that you are passionate about
  • to explain the topic for an audience who knows NOTHING about this topic, but is interested.  They probably know “what it is,” but no details.


Casual, friendly, personal, informative, credible.

  • You are NOT persuading.  You are providing information, based on your experience and on outside sources.
  • This is not a rant or a statistic dump.  This is you telling someone, in a real voice, what you know and what info you have gathered.
  • This should not sound like a “report.”  Don’t be distanced or toneless, like a reference page.


Imagine you are chatting with a young person.  Maybe a TWEEN.  Smart, thoughtful, interested in a variety of things, from global warming to motorcycles to music.

  • Probably in the 11-13 age range.
  • Think about how you might present this information to them.
  • How do you get them interested in this topic and you as a writer?
  • How do you keep them “reading”?  How will you connect to that type of audience?
  • Don’t forget: they don’t know much about your topic, so don’t assume they will read your mind.

Writing Q&A:

What kinds of topics could I write about?

  • Think of things that are important and relevant to you.
  • It could be something small (make-up, a hobby, a talent).
  • It could be something large (related to a band, a film, a family tradition).
  • It could be the history of a superhero, the popularity of a TV show, something you’ve always wanted to investigate.

Can I use personal experience and “I”/first-person?

    • Yes, please!  Make this a very personal-sounding essay, balanced by credible research.
    • If you don’t use “I,” make the “I” sound implied.  Comment on the research – engage with the research.


How much research do you have to incorporate? 

    • For every “claim” you make, you should think about having a solid piece of evidence (outside sources should be cited in MLA format).
    • More than likely, this means one solid “example”/supporting detail/supporting piece of evidence in every paragraph.
    • This is not an essay where every sentence is a researched idea/statement.  In this essay, you are a writer engaging with information you have uncovered.  It is not a quilt, with every idea coming from someone else.

How do I incorporate my research?

    • Do not rely on parenthetical or in-text citations.
    • However, in some cases, when the signal phrase does not provide complete information, you need to use parenthetical citations.
    • Do not just drop in quotations without putting them in context (identification).

How many sources must I have?

  • At least 5 credible outside sources.

Can the sources be from any place?

  • Yes, as long as it is credible.

What is a credible source?

  • A source with a strong reputation for fairness and variety of opinion.
  • A source with an expert writer / publisher.
    • Evaluate the credibility of your sources

What should I put in my introduction?

    • Grab your reader – get them immediately interested in your topic and express your purpose.  Don’t generalize.  Jump in!
    • You should have a clear purpose statement/thesis statement that specifically directs our attention to the content of the commentary.

What do I say in my conclusion?

    • Don’t repeat your points.  A reader can always go back and review what you’ve said.
    • Instead, think of the most vital takeaway point for your reader.  Is it a Call to Action for them?  Are you reminding them of something?  Do you want them to think about something in particular?  How do you want them to remember your purpose and message?

Should I have a Works Cited page?

  • Yes!  You need to let your reader know where to find those resources.
  • The Works Cited page should be in MLA format.

Plagiarism will receive an F – make sure you are giving credit where credit is due. See Syllabus.

If you submit an essay that you have used for another course, you will also receive an F.

Research Essay Assignment Guidelines