Exploratory Questioning

English 5: Research Paper Topic & Thesis

Please include the following for your preliminary work on your Research Argument Paper

  1. Your issue of controversy(This is not the same as a topic which is usually broader-see below for an example.)
  2. Debate or guiding question: If you think about it, almost all essays involve a question behind the argument. Your thesis/claim/argument is the short answer to the question. The body of your paper explains the reasons for your short answer and provides further support for both your answer and your reasons. Also, although the book phrases the question as a debate question in order to make sure you answer in the form of a persuasive argument, the word “debate” implies an either/or situation. I would like you to remember that most questions and issues have more than two answers and/or perspectives.)
  3. Thesis/claim/argumentYour nutshell (short-one sentence or two at the most) answer to your question.
  4. Includea paragraph that explores and explains why this question(not the issue-your question-issues can have different questions depending on who is looking at the issue.) is important/significant to you.
  5. Include a paragraph that explores and explains why others might find this question to be important/significant.

The reason I ask you to explore and explain why your QUESTION-not the issue- is important to you is because not all questions about an issue deserve equal time and effort in terms of doing research and writing an essay about the research. Exploring and explaining to yourself (and me in this case) why a question is of significance allows you to think more deeply about the reasons you are interested in the question; it can help you refine your question if you discover that it is too broad, or it can help you add more to your question.  The following is an example of an essay that was born out of reading Jimmy Santiago Baca’s memoir, A Place To Stand.

Example of a question and explanation of why it matters

Why does Lonnie leave what seems to be a really good life in San Diego to be with Jimmy Santiago Baca?

This question matters to me because it seems like Lonnie has a good life. Her family has money, and her parents seem to care about her. I can understand her wanting to date Baca, but I can’t really understand her just leaving her family for him. If I write about this question I can think more about what would have motivated her to do that. I can focus more on the things that Baca says about her to try and figure out this mystery. It also matters to me because this is not the first time I have read or heard about a woman dropping what seems to be a good life to follow someone who ultimately gets her into a heap of trouble. I am curious about the motivation behind making a choice like this.

I think this question and its answer might matter to other people because it asks us to think about why women put men first in their lives. In fact, you could combine this question with one about why Jimmy’s mom abandons her kids and her culture in order to go off with the white guy Richard who is obviously an a**hole. What is it that makes them think their lives will be better with some guy? I guess it’s ultimately a question about the whole notion of there being a Prince Charming with whom you can live happily ever after. This is an important question for women.

Already my exercise in thinking about why the question matters has led me to change my question giving me more to consider and therefore more to write about.

New question (level 2):Why do both Baca’s mother and his girlfriend, Lonnie, leave everything behind to follow men they hardly know?

Thesis: Both Baca’s mother and Lonnie, his girlfriend, leave everything they know behind to follow a man because the former thinks that Richard will give her a comfortable life while Lonnie leaves her comfortable home to be with Jimmy because she thinks they will live a romantic and adventurous life.  Note:This still needs work-I can revise again later.

When I started this I was focusing on creating a level 2 question and argument, but you can see that my speculations about the significance of my question led me to a level 3 (beyond the text) question as well.

New question (level 3):Why do so many women abandon everything they know in order to go off with a man even if there are signs that they will land in a heap of trouble by being with this person?

I don’t have a thesis at this time for my level 3 question. I need to do some research and probably refine my question once I have more information. At that point I will be able to write a working thesis.

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