A Writing Guide for Honors 047 & 048


This handbook is designed to help students improve their research and writing skills in Honors 047 and 048, ‘Self and Society’. This is a two semester course sequence that introduces students to the differences and similarities between and among the social sciences by examining how different social sciences approach particular social issues, problems and questions. While designed for one section of this course (Modernization and Development), this guide can be adapted for use in other sections.

Writing Component

Because this course fulfills writing in the disciplines (WID) requirements, student writing is a foundational part of this class. Writing in this course will take three forms, each serving a different purpose.

A. Reaction:

Each week, you will write and post a 500 word response to weekly readings on Blackboard. This writing is designed to be reactive, enabling you to craft your immediate response to what you have read. As such, this writing will be guided by questions.

B. Analysis:

Twice in the semester you will write a short five-seven page essay in response to guiding prompts. The first assignment aims at encouraging and developing your analytical skills, the second seeks to help strengthen your argumentative skills. These two essays will serve as a foundation for the main writing component of this course, a substantive research paper. As such, you will revise each of these essays once.

C. Research Paper:

The topic of your final paper will be linked to the theme of the Self & Society section in which you are enrolled. Thematic courses offered in the past have included nations and nationalism, comparative politics, Chinese social and cultural change, modernism and fascism, women in politics, and gender and violence. This section takes as its theme modernization and development. During this semester we will examine the goals, assumptions, and processes of modernization and development. Drawing from history, sociology, economics, public policy, anthropology, and political science, course readings emphasize key questions about the process of international development, including practices, origins, theoretical assumptions, and social impact. Given the above, your final paper will have as its subject a specific development intervention in a specific country, be approximately twenty pages in length, and specifically address the following:

  • What happened? (description)
  • How has what has been done shifted over time? (analysis)
  • What is the current status of this issue, as seen from various social science perspectives? (evaluation)

The Writing Outcome: A Portfolio

This assignment will emphasize the process basis of research. Few people, no matter their brilliance as thinkers or writers, are able to sit down and write a strong and rigorous analysis, argument, or narrative. As for those who have claimed to take this approach, their end product is certainly open to critical interpretation – just try to read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, for example. Given this reality, in this assignment you will document each step in the research process by submitting specific pieces of writing. These will include the following:

  1. Initial Topic
  2. Research Question
  3. Annotated Bibliography
  4. Draft #1
  5. Peer Review
  6. Draft #2
  7. Final Paper

When you finish your final draft, you will submit a portfolio containing each of these pieces. Your final grade will take account of each step of the research process, rather than focusing only on the final draft.

NOTE: For excellent source material about the research process, grammar tips, word choice, and other writing issues visit the George Washington University’s writing program’s website at https://writingprogram.gwu.edu.

Getting Started: Writing a Research Paper

One of the most difficult yet crucial research skills involves shifting from research-as-summary to research-as-practice. When you engage in summary research, you may gather, collate, and present a range of information, but never make the shift to analysis. While you may evaluate materials, you generally focus on providing an overview of who-said-what and when. In such an approach your research product mainly TELLS the reader something. In contrast, when you engage in research as practice, you first identify a question, locate relevant and reputable source materials that address this, choose reliable methods analysis, and examine knowledge-claims for accuracy, relevancy and support. By following this approach, your research paper becomes a document that SHOWS the reader not just your claims but information that supports these as well as information that complicates your claims.

To better understand how you have approached research so far in your educational career, ask yourself these questions:

A. When I write a research paper, what is my intent?
B. When I write a research paper, who is my intended audience?

If your answer to the above is A), to complete the assignment and/or show I have read the required material and B) my professor, then you are not doing authentic research. Authentic research begins with a problem, issue, question, or puzzle, not with an answer. Authentic research requires you to observe, question, explore, take chances, interpret and persuade. It above all requires you to question your own assumptions and be open to a range of claims, arguments, and interpretations.

In this section of Self & Society, while we will use source materials from a variety of social sciences, your writing and research will be anthropological. Anthropology as a discipline is characterized by an emphasis on participant-observation and fieldwork. In examining a social issue or question, anthropologists use an inductive, not a deductive approach.

Deductive research begins with a hypothesis, gathers data to measure the validity of this hypothesis, and then concludes by supporting or rejecting this hypothesis. This approach works well in the natural sciences, especially in situations in which a researcher can control many variables. So, for example, if someone claims that a diet of bananas and chocolate will lead to weight loss, a researcher can evaluate this claim by replicating this process: recruit volunteers, strictly monitor what they eat, and see what happens.

This approach does not work well when examining most social issues. Instead, an inductive approach is often more useful. Inductive research does not begin with a hypothesis (an answer) but a question. This approach requires a researcher to follow the data. This should not be a problem if you begin with a question. If you begin with an answer, you will probably spend much of your time finding selective evidence that supports your position. This works well in a debate, or in a law court, but inductive research on social issues is not about debate skills, or winning court cases. The goal is to offer a rigorous and intellectually honest analysis of your research question.

What does this mean in practice? First, accept the fact that where you begin a research project is quite likely not where you will end. Quite often, you will finish a research project with a very different question or issue than that with which you began. This is quite normal, so do not be alarmed! This does not mean you have wasted time going from A to B to C to D; it means that getting to D could only happen by first going from A to B to C.

I. Choosing a topic:

Start with guiding criteria for this section of Self & Society: you are to analyze a development intervention in a specific place. This means you need a place and an intervention. Complete this statement:

I want to study ________ in the country of ___________. EXAMPLES:

A. I want to study the one-child population policy in China.
B. I want to study education language policies in Mauritius.
C. I want to study the tourism industry in Jamaica.
D. I want to study state language policies in Quebec.
E. I want to study micro-credit programs in Bangladesh.
Next, note what the assignment asks you to address:

  • What happened? (description)
  • How has what has been done shifted over time? (analysis)
  • What is the current status of this issue, as seen from various social science perspectives? (evaluation)

This statement will be the first document you submit for your project portfolio.

II. What do you already know?

If you think you already know what happened, you have a poor research topic. For example, if you are interested in finding out what effects a state-mandated one child policy has had in China, and you think you already know the answer, then why write this paper? At best, you will write a paper that resembles a legal brief more than an analysis. This does not mean you should choose a topic about which you neither know anything nor have any opinion. Why spend a semester researching an issue about which you do not really care?

Instead, begin by writing down what you already know about your topic. After this, write down why you think what you know is accurate. For example, what information serves as the basis of your beliefs? Where did you find this information?

TOPIC: I want to study family planning policies in China.

WHAT I ALREADY KNOW: The policy does not work. It infringes on human rights. It has led to female infanticide.

WHAT ARE THE SOURCES FOR WHAT I KNOW? _________________________
After this, think about what you need to know in order to complete this assignment. For the above example, this might range from factual questions to broader questions of policy goals and outcomes:

  • What actually is the Chinese policy on family planning?
  • What are the goals of this policy?
  • How long has this policy been in practice?
  • Has this policy changed at all? If so, how?
  • Who is affected by this policy?
  • What are the demographic indicators for China?
  • To what extent is infanticide practiced, by whom, and in what situations? How to accurately access the size and scope of this issue?
  • Finally, end by restating your initial topic in the form of a question. For example, for this topic, one suitable question would be: What classes of women are affected by China’s one-child policy, and to what extent have economic reforms impacted this?

When you have completed this exercise, you will be able to submit the second document in your project portfolio. Use this outline as a model:

TOPIC: I want to study ____________ in ______________.

WHAT I ALREADY KNOW: ______________________________

THE SOURCES FOR WHAT I KNOW: ___________________________

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? ____________________________________

WORKING RESEARCH QUESTION: ___________________________________

III. Searching for Data:

Type in the key word 'China one child policy' in Google and you will receive 60,800,000 results. Type in 'China birth control one child policy' and you will receive 'only' 264,000 results. No one has the time to actually go though all of these sources. Even after further refining this by typing in 'China birth control one child policy social class' you will reduce this number only to 73,900 results, still unmanageable. Some people, however, think this is not a problem, because search engines rank search results by relevance.

Fallacy #1: Google has already sorted these websites for me.

Fact: Search engines cannot think. Pages are ranked based on a range of variables (Google claims to use more than 200) that are in turn linked to the search terms you use. When searching the general web, there is no guarantee that the top ten search results you receive are the most relevant sources for your research. This is because you have not provided any means of filtering results.

Fallacy #2: If a site shows up at the top of a Google search, it must be okay for my paper.

Fact: Google or other search engines do not sort search results by quality, believability, or the rigor of claims. For example, a search of ‚China birth control one child policy social class‛ yielded these top results:
1. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov (an article from the British Medical Journal)
2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy (Wikipedia)
3. mediamatters.org (an American political activist site)
4. india_resource.tripod.com/one-child-policy (an on-line South Asia community site)
5. caloriecount.about.com (a dieting website)
6. http://www.ijme.in (a story in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics)
7. http://www.rferl.org (a Radio Free Europe story)
8. http://www.feministing.com (a feminist organization)
9. bmj.bmjjournals.com (a link to a self-help on-line medical community)
Only #1 and #6 might be of any relevance to this assignment. This is because you are required to draw on academic sources in this analysis. What does this mean? In general, newspapers do not analyze, they report. Dot-com sites are in the business of business, not hard analysis. And dot-orgs are by definition special interest sites, meaning they have clear policy agendas. These sources are not necessarily irrelevant. However, they at best can serve to illustrate an issue, not serve as a foundation for a position or argument. In the above example, if you argue that China’s one-child policy has grossly harmed the human rights of Chinese citizens and violated the rights of women to control their own bodies, and supported these claims with references to feministing.com, Wikipedia, and Radio Free Europe, you have not completed this assignment. First, you have not actually evaluated the Chinese government’s population control policy by using various social science methods, and second, the sources you have offered are not academic.

IV. What makes a source ‘academic’?

A good source in the context of an assignment such as this is a source that has been vetted through a peer-review process. This means the author’s claims, evidence, and argument have gone through an evaluation process. This process usually follows a common path. First, an author submits an article to a journal. The journal’s editor then sends this article to other researchers in the field. These researchers read and evaluate this work, and then provide comments and suggestions. Some articles are rejected, while others are returned to the author, who revises and resubmits, based on the comments and questions of anonymous reviewers. This process might then be repeated. When an article in a peer-reviewed journal finally appears in print, readers can be confident that any claims have been peer-reviewed. All may not agree with an author’s perspective, or the strength of her evidence, but these claims and evidence have met the test of being academic-worthy.

V. Finding academic sources:

Type in the key word ‚China one child policy‛ in Google Scholar and you will receive 608,000 results, 1/100 the number you receive using Google’s general search engine. Unlike Google’s general search engine, Google Scholar does not provide results from the entire web. Instead, it limits results to academic theses, books, articles, and abstracts. For your purposes, it also offers a key practical feature – as long as you are searching on the GW network, Google Scholar will also indicate whether a source is available through Gelman Library. For example, if ‚The one-child population policy, modernization, and the extended Chinese family. X Chen – Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1985 – jstor.org‛ is available thrugh Gelman Library’s data bases, you will see ‚Find it @ GW‛ next to this link. By clicking ‚Find it @ GW‛, Google Scholar will redirect your search to the relevant data base.
Continuing with our preliminary search, using ‚China birth control one child policy‛ as key words narrows the results to 110,000, and ‚China birth control one child policy social class‛ narrows this further, to 83,600 results. These are still far too many to adequately search. However, at this point you should have already refined your general topic (birth control, China) into a more specific guiding question. In the example above, this question is:
What classes of women are affected by China’s one-child policy, and to what extent have economic reforms impacted this?

Think about what key words can be extracted from this statement. ‚China‛ and ‚one child policy‛ clearly need to be a part of our search. But this leaves us with 608,000 possible sources. ‚Women‛ and ‚class‛ are also relevant. Adding ‚economic reforms‛ to our above search terms further reduces our results, to 17,400 – still far too many to search. But the most common results of this Google Scholar search are very different from those of a general Google search:

  1. Recent trends in sex ratios at birth in China. TH Hull – Population and Development Review, 1990 – jstor.org
  2. Causes and implications of the recent increase in the reported sex ratio at birth in China. Z Yi, T Ping, G Baochang, X Yi, L Bohua, L – Population and Development Review, 1993 – jstor.org
  3. Shifts in China’s population policy, 1984-86: Views from the central, provincial, and local levels. S Greenhalgh – Population and Development Review, 1986 – jstor.org
  4. [BOOK] Accepting population control: urban Chinese women and the one-child family policy CN Milwertz – 1997 – books.google.com
  5. China’s one child family policy. P Kane, CY Choi – British Medical Journal, 1999 – bmj.com
  6. The peasantization of the one-child policy in Shaanxi. S Greenhalgh – Chinese families in the post-Mao era, 1993 – books.google.com
  7. Changes in Chinese urban family structure. M Tsui – Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1989 – jstor.org
  8. The one-child population policy, modernization, and the extended Chinese family. X Chen – Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1985 – jstor.org
  9. Gender inequality, family planning, and maternal and child care in a rural Chinese county. J Li – Social Science & Medicine, 2004 – Elsevier
  10. Postrevolutionary mobilization in China: The One-child policy reconsidered

T White – World Politics: A Quarterly Journal of International <, 1990 – jstor.org

What does this list of results tell you?

  • These are academic sources, either journals (8) or books (2).
  • Population and Development Review and the Journal of Marriage and Family are good sources for research on this issue.
  • S. Greenhalgh is apparently an important voice in this field.

This list of results does NOT tell you what precisely these authors argue, or for that matter what exactly is the focus of their research. If you were to attempt to write a paper using these ten sources, you have no guarantee of success, unless all of these authors are actually writing specifically about YOUR GUIDING FOCUS: the socio-economic classes of Chinese women most impacted by the one-child policy. At this point the shortcuts end and the real work of research begins – reading potential sources and taking notes.

VI. Reading for what?

It is relatively rare that a social issue or problem has a set of universally agreed upon facts that define this problem. At best, factual information sets the parameters of the debate. For example, few researchers disagree that a gender imbalance is now found in China, or that there is a higher number of baby boys than baby girls born each year. The facts of these issues are of course important, but you should not focus only on researching and tabulating competing facts. Instead, you need to identify arguments: who says what, and why? How do different authors interpret factual data? What predictions and/or recommendations do authors make, and what evidence do they base these on? Most importantly, which authors address the issue you are concerned with? As you read articles, keep written notes of what you read. Identify the purpose of each article and the disciplinary approach of the author. Is the writer an economist, or a political scientist? Is she an anthropologist, a sociologist, a geographer, or a public health specialist? Note page numbers of key points, claims, and recommendations, rather than simply highlighting text.

Fallacy #3: I print copies of articles and highlight important passages. This is a fine way to take notes.

Fact: Highlighting sentences is not note-taking. It is an aesthetic trick, duping people into assuming a page that has been marked up in different colors is the same as a page that has been read and analyzed. Disciplining yourself to write down in your own words important points and claims and noting page numbers serves two purposes: first, it helps you process information, and second, it provides you with cited information for the writing of your paper. Think of this as a write-down, write-up process. You first write down notes, and then write up these notes in your research paper.

VII. Creating an Annotated Bibliography:

As you begin to read through possible sources, it is a good idea to keep a record of what you read, even of sources you do not think fit your project. For the purposes of this course, you will submit an annotated bibliography of source materials. This will be the third document in your research portfolio. This bibliography will most likely not be the final list of your source materials, because you will submit this before you complete a draft. But it should reflect how you are approaching your research question. It should also do the following:

  • Accurately cite sources, using MLA format.
  • Accurately note each author’s main claim, the evidence for this claim, and the implications of this work for your research.

A POOR BIBLIOGRAPHY looks like this:
Shifts in China’s population policy, 1984-86: Views from the central, provincial, and local levels. S Greenhalgh – Population and Development Review, 1986 – http://www.jstor.org/stable/1973220
In this article Susan Greenhalgh discusses different ideas about China’s population growth. This is useful for me because my topic is the one child policy and how it impacts different classes of people.

First, this article has not been correctly cited. Second, the summation tells the reader nothing about the author’s argument.
A STRONG BIBLIOGRAPHY entry looks like this:
Greenhalgh, Susan. Shifts in China’s Population Policy, 1984-86: Views from the Central, Provincial, and Local Levels. Population and Development Review 12:3 (September 1986), 491-515.
Greenhalgh, a sociologist, analyzes Chinese government policy shifts in the early 1980s that led to a relaxation of stringent one child policies. Using government statistics and interviews with rural family planning workers, she argues that an end to mass sterilization and ideological campaigns, increased autonomy for local family planning workers, and new economic incentives contributed to a continued decline in birth rates in the 1980s. She predicts that these policy changes will continue, given the need for popular support of the family planning campaign, especially among peasants. She argues that offering peasants economic opportunities and some form of social security will decrease their labor needs, a major reason why couples seek large families. This article is useful for my paper because my focus is on how family planning policies affect different classes of women.
In this entry, the author has correctly cited Greenhalgh’s article, then provided a concise summary of what she studied, what she learned, and what she expects will happen.

VIII. Writing your paper:

Once you have a set of source materials that you have read and analyzed, you are ready to begin writing. Broadly, you can break down your project into these sections:

Introduction: Clearly state the issue. TELL your reader what you will analyze, as well as why this is an issue worthy of analysis. In the drafting stage, simply begin by writing, ‚In this paper I will <<<<<.‛ If you feel the need for some sort of catchy introductory sentence, put this down on paper; chances are your first sentence, or even first paragraph, can later be deleted.

Background: In a larger project this might be called the ‘literature review’. Your purpose in this section is to contextualize your topic by providing readers with the foundational background information they need to judge the quality of your analysis and argument. If you are researching a controversial issue such as the one child policy in China, you do not want to use selective information claims to skewer your audience’s perception. For example, using statistics from Falun Gong or a Christian group that is strongly critical of the Chinese government to prove the government condones widespread female infanticide serves no purpose here. Your goal is to provide as accurate and objective a context as possible.

Analysis: In this section you will draw on sources that ‘flesh out’ your research question. Try to offer a spectrum of views, rather than only one. In order to construct a strong analysis and make a claim that others will take seriously, you must provide the strongest arguments against your view. Unlike in a debate, your goal is to not selectively choose aspects of a position you disagree with and then demolish these. This approach may be common in political debates, but it is not acceptable in academic research. In our example, if you believe the Chinese one-child policy is wrong, you need to engage with research and analysis that point to possible benefits of this policy. You need to also take seriously in an intellectually honest manner the most difficult questions that complicate your own position. In a largely rural society, people tend to have large families. This fact impacts health, educational, environmental, nutritional, and other development policies. Why privilege one aspect of development (the ability to have as many children as you want) over other aspects?

Argument: This is a logical continuation of the ‘analysis’ section and is the heart of your research paper. Based on the sources you have selected and everything you have learned, your goal is to provide an informed opinion. In doing so, beware the debate club trap! I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for you to be willing to engage with policies and arguments that do not support your own opinion. For example, a few years ago a student wrote a paper that began as a strong defense and promotion of the Grameen Bank’s micro-credit financing program for rural women in Bangladesh. In the course of her research she discovered survey data that indicated that women who participated in this program reported more cases of domestic violence than did women who did not participate. She also found research that showed that Grameen Bank interest rates on loans may average 20-25%, much lower than informal money lenders charged but significantly higher than formal bank credit. An intellectually dishonest researcher would have ignored these results. In this case, the student researcher accepted the fact that she needed to grapple with data that complicated her own view, with the result that her thesis and argument shifted, not to ‘The Grameen Bank is bad’ but to, ‘Like many development interventions, Grameen Bank micro-finance programs have unintended consequences’.

Conclusion: Revisit your thesis statement from the introduction. Explicitly tell your readers how you have answered this guiding question and reached your conclusions.

Drafts: Many students think of a ‘draft’ as a partial paper, or a work-in-progress. This leads them to assume a ‘draft’ can take a range of forms, and include everything from a rough outline to a few pages, to a paper partially written, to a complete paper. For our purposes, a draft in this course means a complete paper. This means each section outlined above has been addressed. Where you, as the author, recognize your paper is weak, you should insert comments in specific places noting what is missing. Here is an example:

Today the One-Child Policy remains intact with a few slight adjustments and no end in sight [I know this is vague; I have to reword and connect to later sections]. These loosening restrictions in the policy don’t threaten the long-term strength of the policy as they are made only to benefit special cases. Rural areas have cut back on restrictions with some regions allowing birth spacing of three to four years rather than no second birth whatsoever. In 1987 the policy was altered to allow families to have more than one child if there were “practical difficulties” such as a disabled family member (Scheuer 2). [The author does not explain these, so I need to find some examples]. Revisions have occurred as recently as 2008 when offices in the Sichuan province granted families the right to have more children if their child was killed in the Sichuan earthquake earlier that year. Despite revisions in the wake of necessity, the policy does not remain unchallenged as Chinese feminists continue to protest the policy. Feminist scholar Li Xiaojiang threw one of the first stones, publicly stating that “women have been treated no better than animals” (Greenhalgh 868). Due to the various loopholes and ways for people to sneak past regulations or governmental inspection, there are not often calls for major revisions to the policy which are only made advantageously in response to crisis and to keep the policy popular in public opinion, such as when the government lifted the policy for victims of the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 (Jacobs 1).

Peer Review: Once you have completed your draft, this will be read and commented upon by a colleague and then submitted to your teacher as the fourth and fifth parts of your portfolio. Note that the quality of your peer review will count as a part of your portfolio grade, so you need to take this seriously. Your task is very specific: read the draft of your colleague once. Then write down what you think the guiding question or claim is, as well as the types of evidence the author provides to answer or respond to this. After this, read the paper again. You should only write QUESTIONS on the draft you review.

When you have finished, spend 10-15 minutes with the writer, explaining your questions. After this, spend 10-15 minutes with the person who has read your paper, listening to their questions and comments. Be sure to take notes!

IX. Editing versus Revising

First of all, all writers revise. Indeed, the best writers are usually those who recognize that any piece of writing, no matter the subject or the audience, can be better. Talk to any professor or other person who has published their writing and they will tell you of the long process of seeing their words finally in print. This is a key point, one you should always remember: writing is a process, not a one-off flight of genius (no matter what Jack Kerouac claimed).

Editing is akin to polishing. When you edit you tinker with your writing. Careful editing aims to clean up grammatical confusion, ambiguous word choices, and other rhetorical elements that blunt the flow of ideas, claims, and information. When you revise you go beyond and deeper than this ‘cleaning up’ process; revision often entails a structural reworking or rethinking of the writing. Revision occurs in the context of new sources of information, claims, or evidence that force a writer to reconsider a particular point or perhaps an entire thesis. If editing is a process of refining and polishing, revision is a process of creation. Of course, all of us see what we write upon completion as solid. It is difficult for even the most reflective of writers to finish a piece of writing and immediately be able to read this as both a proofreader (part of the editing process) and as a critical evaluator (the process of revision). Luckily, in this course you have help with this task. Your draft will be read and commented upon by both a colleague and your teacher. They have the initial task of critically evaluating your writing and noting specific issues and questions with this.
What is crucial for you as a writer is to recognize the worth of peer comments. Your peers, after all, are you intended audience for this work, not simply your teacher. After you have gone home with your paper and read comments,
respond to these comments on paper. Write answers to each question. After this, arrange to meet your peer reviewer again, and talk her/him through each of your responses.

X. Your Second Draft

The second draft of your paper most likely will be substantially different from your first draft. Do not be alarmed: this is how the research and writing process works. If you have responded to the questions on your initial draft, your essay will necessarily have to be different.

XI. Common Pitfalls

Below are common pitfalls found in many initial research drafts.

  • Your paper is an argument and/or defense of a beginning assumption:

Remember that this assignment asks you to research a question, not defend an opinion. Note these examples: A. Sudan is a poor country because it has a corrupt government. B. Given its relatively large state-controlled oil reserves, why is Sudan still one of the poorest countries in the world? Example A is a claim. Writing a paper based on this claim would mean finding sources that support this assumption, which leads to a simple question: what is the point of constructing a selective defense of a pre-conceived notion? More importantly, this approach is logically flawed because it assumes the lack of development in Sudan is a result of one factor, corruption. Example B is a question. It does not rule out corruption as a factor in the lack of development, but it does not begin by assuming this is the only, or even most important, factor.

  • Your paper relies on abstract categories and generalizes.

An anthropological analysis examines existing communities, not abstract concepts. This requires you to be specific with your language. A paper about birth control policies in China cannot take as its subject ‘China’ or ‘The Chinese’, or even simply ‘Chinese women’. It must take account of the social realities of actually existing women. The amount of agency a woman has in China, like in a society such as the United States, is tied to her class status, her education, her income, where she lives, her ethnicity, and many other factors. This means you cannot make broad sweeping claims about all women in China, let alone all Chinese people, or Chinese society. Imagine if you met someone from China who asserted that American women are promiscuous, or Californians are happy. How would you respond? It is crucial to understand that different social sciences have different approaches. Disciplines such as anthropology and sociology generally do not seek to make broad generalizations, whereas economics and to some extent political science do. This does not mean one approach is better than another. You as a researcher need to understand the foundational perspectives of different audiences.

  • Your paper does not integrate source materials.

After you have finished your draft, read through this and mark where you cite a source. Do you rely heavily on only one or two sources? Do you integrate sources, or do you repeatedly cite from one source for several paragraphs or pages, then move on to another source? If so, this is a signal that you are not processing your source materials. Remember that your purpose is to bring source materials together and engage these in a conversation. As the writer, you should seek to have your source materials together ‘say’ something they do not separately.

  • You quote and do not paraphrase.

Word processor programs have made life as a researcher much easier than in the days of typewriters and white-out (if you never heard of this, ask your parents). But this has also made cutting and pasting text very simple. A research paper that is filled with quotes, even quotes that are properly cited, is not necessarily a strong paper. Taking this approach leads to a loss of control over the paper. Who is the writer? You are. Given this fact, you should read your draft and mark each quote you use. Think about why you have used this quote. What makes this important to your paper? Paraphrase and cite each of these quotes. This will help you to maintain control over your paper. For the purposes of this assignment, do not quote facts. Do not quote anything longer than two sentences. If you do quote an author, determine who this person is, and decide whether he or she can stand as an authority.

  • You ‘feel’ a good deal.

Don’t tell me how you feel. Feelings are well and good, but are not the same thing as thinking. As John Stuart Mill argued in his essay On Liberty, feeling something (an opinion) is not the same as thinking (reasoning). Each place in your draft where you use the word ‘feel’ think about what you mean.

  • You do not pay attention to verb tense choice.

The past, present perfect, and simple present tenses are not used in the same ways because they do not communicate the same time frame. You know this, so why not pay attention to the time aspect of your analysis? In anthropological writing, the simple present tense is seldom used, because this communicates a TIMELESS element. If you were writing a philosophy paper on the question of whether individuals should be able to produce as many children as they desire, you would probably use the simple present tense. In this assignment example, you are analyzing the impact state population control policies have had and continue to have on specific classes of women in contemporary China. At different points in your paper you will have to use the simple present, present progressive, simple past, and future tenses.

  • Words matter, so why complicate matters?

Write in your own voice – not the voice you use when drinking and hanging out with your friends, but your own writing voice. You discover this through writing clearly and using a vocabulary you understand, not by employing words that look or sound impressive but are either incorrectly used or overly general. You are welcomed to use that mystical pronoun, ‚I‛, but in this assignment, this will appear in two specific places, your introduction and your conclusion.

XII. In Conclusion

If you do not have a perfect answer to your research question, this is okay!

Remember that your goal is not necessarily to find a magic answer to your beginning question, but to understand the context of this question. The reasons why Sudan as a country remains relatively poor are no doubt several. The impact of China’s one-child policy on Chinese women clearly will vary depending on several factors. You should seek to show the realities of a social issue, no matter how complex this might be. A good research paper in this sense does not
conclude with a prescriptive ‘fix’; it instead strives to show and understand why things are the way they are.
To Repeat: Further help for all of your writing questions can be found at the GW Writing Program’s website: http://www.gwu.edu/~uwp/. Good luck, and good night.


I. Submission Checklist

Initial Topic


Annotated Bibliography

Draft #1

Peer Review

Draft #2

Final Paper

II. Final Project Grading Criteria:

Your grade for this will not be based only on your final draft. Your grade will also be based on these factors:

  • The extent to which you meet each research process deadline.
  • The quality of your final project presentation in class.
  • The quality of feedback you provide to your peers in draft paper sessions.
  • Do you have COMPLETE working drafts at required times?

III. Rubric for Assessing Writing & Research

A: Exceptional work. Clear and ambitious thesis; supporting evidence is accurate, and is drawn from different social science perspectives. The argument is clear, concise, well organized, and addresses the question of the assignment. No major grammar or spelling errors or omissions; exceptionally thorough proofreading and editing.

B: Fine, quality work. Clear and relevant thesis. The work is well organized and argued, draws on different social science materials, but has minor errors or omissions. Generally effective proofreading and editing.

C: Confused and weak thesis, minimal analysis and evidence of research; Minimally adequate but inconsistent editing and proofreading. The work may make use of some evidence, but relies on one social science perspective. There are clear problems of organization or interpretation.

D: Weak or non-existent thesis. The work has clear problems with the clarity of the argument, a lack of supporting information, inaccurate or irrelevant sources, poor organization, or other issues. Weak and inconsistent proofreading and editing. F: Failing grade with serious deficiencies. The work has serious factual errors and obvious problems with organization, and may not address the aspects of the assignment. An evident lack of proofreading and editing.

IV. Overall Grading Standards for this Course:
A. To what extent do you examine assumptions and evidence, in both scholarly texts and informed public commentary?
B. To what extent do you evaluate and analyze relevant information resources, using them effectively, and acknowledging them correctly?
C. To what extent do you recognize the different expectations of different scholarly audiences, and the use of formats, evidence, tones, and levels of formality appropriate to different disciplines?
D. To what extent do you submit final drafts free of errors in grammar, syntax, usage, paragraphing, punctuation, and spelling?