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Prof. Weinstock - English 101 - The Changing American Family: Your Assignment

Your Assignment


Your next major writing assignment is a Research Paper on some aspect of the changing American family.  Even if you’re not an expert or don’t know very much about families in America, you probably know from your own experience and what you see and read in the news, that the structure of the American family has been going through tremendous changes over the past 60 years.  It is common knowledge that the overall divorce rate in the United States is close to 50%, more and more states are legalizing same sex marriages, more interracial couples and people from different religious faiths are  marrying, and that the definition of what constitutes a family continues to change.

For your paper, you will need to choose a specific aspect or topic to focus on, within the larger framework of the Changing American Family.  In addition, you will also need to locate/use outside research sources to support your ideas. The best way to begin your Research Paper is with a question that interests you--a question that you’d like to research and find some answers to.

 Research Paper                                                                  

For your research paper on the Changing American Family, you need to go through a similar process.  You need to find some aspect of the American family that intrigues you, and that you’re curious to find more about. Then you need to come up with a specific research question and turn your question into a thesis statement.  For instance, if you’re interested in the more general topic of Gay Marriage, your question might be: “What are the emotional/social effects of same sex marriage on a gay couple’s children?” Or, if you’re curious about why the divorce rate in America has risen to such a high rate, you might ask: “What sociological factors have contributed to the current increase in divorce in American families?” Or if you have a grandparent who lives with you at home you might be interested in researching this question: “How do grandparents affect social interaction within the American family?”  The list of questions is endless and very individual.  You simply need to find a question about the changing American family that interests you.

After you come up with your topic, question, and thesis statement, you need to investigate and explore your topic by doing research.  You will need to use four separate sources for your paper.  These include:

1 newspaper article

1 magazine article

1 passage from a book, OR scholarly journal (periodical)

1 additional source (any of the above)

If you like, you can use the magazine feature article we read in class, “The Changing American Family,” as one of your sources.

The trick of writing a good research paper is to integrate your sources, quotations, and paraphrases into the text of your essay.  This requires good organizational skills and clear thinking.  In addition to citing your sources within the text, you will need to provide a Works Cited page at the end of your paper to indicate the publication and author(s) of each of your sources. You will be using MLA format in your paper. This is presented in the RESEARCH PATH presentation and the ENG 101 Research Guide (on the Library page).  I will also review MLA format with you in class.

Closely review the RESEARCH PATH presentation and information on Blackboard. Then use our class discussions and your own brainstorming to come up with a question, (which I must approve), and begin your research. Use the various WCC Library databases to help locate articles and narrow down your search to fit your topic. Use Keywords in your search (we will review this in class).  Although you must use the Library databases for most of your sources, there is nothing wrong with typing your topic into GOOGLE, to access information and material that can give you a general overview of your topic. The problem with using a general, popular search engine like GOOGLE is that you don’t know how reliable your sources are.  However, there is plenty of trustworthy research data that can be obtained through a general GOOGLE search—especially newspaper and popular magazine articles, some of which can be quite reliable.  Again, although you may not Wikipedia as a research source because it cannot, necessarily, be validated, if you scroll down to the bottom of the Wikipedia entry, you will often find a bibliography of cited sources, some of which come from scholarly journals, and which, indeed, may be reliable sources.  You need to be careful in your use of these more general sources, but they can help give you an overall big picture of your topic.

Good luck on your research exploration.




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