WRITING ACADEMIC PAPERS FOR ETHNIC STUDIES 100
Prof. James Sobredo

 

This class assumes you know how to write a college academic paper. An academic paper in college is not an opinion piece. For this Ethnic Studies class, an academic paper is a carefully written paper that critically examines and discusses an assigned topic. Unlike opinion pieces that articulates the author’s personal views and are not held to a higher standard of proof and evidence, academic papers are held to a higher standard of proof, which means that evidence/data must be presented as proof of its validity and the arguments presented in the paper must be internally coherent and sound.  Furthermore, in an academic paper, the supporting evidence for ones claims and premises must be documented: That is, the source of the supporting evidence must be presented as to where that evidence came from. In a university setting, we do this in the form of careful source citation, which, in this class, comes as a footnote (Chicago style) or MLA source citation format.

 

College Academic Papers must have an Introduction, Body and a Conclusion.

 

There is nothing more annoying that for a professor to have to read a paper where he or she has to decipher what the student is trying to communicate or argue.

In this Ethnic Studies class, a student’s academic paper must have some type of introduction where the writer tells the audience what he or she is going to write about and more importantly what the line of reasoning, argumentation and analysis are that will be defended in the paper. How this is taught in high school and college introductory writing classes is, the writing instructor asks the student to present a thesis statement, which is a statement about what position or argument the paper will defend. Then the body of the paper will present reasons, more arguments and data that support the main thesis argument, and finally a conclusion.

 

Thus, at a very minimum, a college academic paper in this class must have: a) an introduction that presents the thesis statement or main argument, b) a body where the premises, supporting evidence and data and more arguments are presented, and finally c) all of the information presented in b) above are intended to logically support a conclusion. The “conclusion” is supposed to say, in effect, that the argument of the thesis statement is supported by evidence and is logically coherent.

 

Why are source citations and short quotes so important in a college paper?
Academic papers are about providing supporting evidence for what one writes. Think of scientific research: the research scientist must record his or her careful field or lab observations. These recordings are considered primary source research data, and science has very strict standards for collecting and recording data—in fact, one of the hallmarks of scientific methodology is that the experiment must be independently replicable and verifiable. Another scientist must be able to run the same experiment and come to the same results or very close to it. If the experiment is not replicable or verifiable, then the data collected is suspect and not considered reliable. In a short intensive writing class such as ours, we do not have the time or luxury to conduct social science research. That is, we do not have the time to collect primary source data, which is why we depend upon the use of secondary source data. This is where providing careful source citations are very important. You must write a paper so that anyone who follows up on what you write can easily verify your data. In this class, for any information you introduce and use that is not a logical inference from the line of reasoning/data presented or an explanation of a premise or data, then that information must have a source citation. As the Berkeley guide on plagiarism states, "Any time you use information from a source, you must cite it. Thus, a typical college paper will have lots of source citations, and, in this class, more source citations is better.

 

What we do not do in class: literature reviews.  

Although a “literature review” is standard in a 20-page “term paper” and “research paper,” we simply do not have time to do a literature review in class. The professor also does not have time to do a thorough critique of the information students present in class and an examination of counter-arguments and opposing evidence—although in a senior thesis, this is a required procedure for good scholarship.

 

 

Other important requirements for writing a college academic paper in this class:

 

1.         A sentence must have a subject, a predicate, a period and communicate a complete thought. The sentence must be coherent and “makes sense” to the reader—the professor cannot read your mind so make sure the main point of the sentence is clear and coherent.

2.         Do not let quotes stand alone: “Quotes must be incorporated into a sentence, as is done in this sentence.” Quotes standing alone are for creative writing classes, which this one is not. (P.S. The professor for this class also writes short stories and loves creative writing.)

3.         Quotes must always have a source citation and a page number: if there is no page number, an explanation must be provided in the footnote or in the bibliography/reference page.

4.         Organize your paper with sub-headings: show where the Introduction, main body, Race Concepts, Economic Context, Political Context, etc. and Conclusion are.

5.         Do not write in memo form: Each new paragraph in this class must be indented to designate the beginning of a paragraph.

6.          Book titles, film/television series titles, titles of journals, newspapers and magazines (not the article itself) and court cases must be in italics. Court cases must also have the year in which it was decided. Consult a manual of style for more information.

7.         Journal articles, newspaper articles, magazine articles, songs, and segments in a TV series must have quotation marks.