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Writing Program at New College

From Research to Writing (R2W)

 (Michael's version. I use this in ENG 101, ENG 102, and ENG 105, tweaking the parameters depending on the course).  

Assignment Goals:

This assignment poses four interrelated challenges:

  1. Making persuasive argument for the seriousness of a research question / issue.
  2. Integrating a range of articles, books, etc. into your own writing.
  3. Evaluating your sources carefully for an audience unfamiliar with the material.
  4. Producing work appropriate for a general academic audience.

Part One: Annotated Bibliography (approx. 2000-2500 words)

Much of the success of your Research Essay depends upon the strength of your research. Beginning with a strong connection to your topic and creating a research question of personal significance are important steps, to be sure. But another vital element of the research process involves situating your perspective among the work of others who are also interested in the issue or topic. To create a record of the process of reading the work of other scholars, students will create an Annotated Bibliography, which will include both descriptive and evaluative annotations.

           Descriptive and Evaluative Annotations

A descriptive annotation summarizes the main idea of a work with broad strokes. In essence, a descriptive annotation objectively presents the main points and overall thesis of the work. The challenge is provide a balanced, overall sense of the source content. An evaluative annotation usually follows the descriptive annotation and provides critical commentary about or evaluation of the work. Generally speaking, evaluative annotations remark upon your findings of the source’s usefulness and/or quality. For each evaluative comment, consider yourself to be making a claim about the source. Points to consider in making that claim include the following:

  • Credibility of the source
  • Accuracy of the information
  • Comparison with other works
  • The relevance this work has to your own research
  • The significance or importance this work has to the overall discussion of the subject

Each entry should be approximately 150 - 250 words. Thus, you will have only a few sentences to achieve each goal. The annotations will be concise, well written, and demonstrate thoughtful consideration. 

Please use either MLA or APA formatting for the annotated bibliography. Any citations in the text itself should follow these guidelines, with one exception. The most current version of MLA citation rules and guidelines does not require the inclusion of URLs in the works cited page; however, we are asking that you include web addresses for ALL online materials.

MLA and APA Annotated Bibliography samples:

A successful response to this portion of the assignment will:

  • Include at least ten sources
  • Include only sources that are relevant and credible
  • Effectively summarize each source
  • Offer brief but clear evaluative comments for each source
  • Adhere to a style guide (MLA or APA)
  • Be effectively edited

Part Two: Research Essay (approx. 2500-3000 words)                                                                            

Let us be clear from the onset: Providing answers to your research question is not the primary goal of this essay. Instead, the challenge is to convince readers that you have pursued a research question of genuine significance and importance. Defining significance in the context of your research is thus a central challenge of this essay. You do this with writing that is informative and persuasive. As in any Research Essay, you will share your research and draw conclusions that demonstrate logic and reason. The effectiveness of this portion of the assignment will depend on your ability to explain the context, significance, and importance of your research question.

Consider the following standard advice for structuring an academic essay of this kind:


Give your Research Essay a title. You may also consider providing subtitles to the major sections that follow. Use titles to engage and focus your audience. Remember that titles serve these practical purposes but can also set a tone and evoke important ideas from your essay itself.


Your introduction should be designed to interest your reader in your topic AND to introduce your particular research question. Since one of the main goals of the introduction is to inform readers, be sure that what you share is understandable to someone who may not know much about the topic. If needed, define unfamiliar terms. The introduction is most likely the right place to include some general or overview statement about the importance of your research focus. This, of course, is your thesis statement.

Background Section: Orienting Your Readers

After providing an introduction to the argument you will mae, begin presenting readers with information discovered in your research regarding the topic. For instance, what is the history of this topic or issue? What is its cultural significance? What work has been done on the issue already? Are you thinking about following the work of any particular researcher or scholar or school of thought? Are you arguing against beliefs commonly held about this particular issue? No matter how you choose to orient your reader to your research, your goal is to use information gained from your research to persuade readers of the importance of your topic and research question.


Importance of the Issue

In this section, which you may consider the “body” of your essay, make your best case for why your research question is important for audiences to seriously considerably. You will make this case by sharing the bulk of the research you have completed. Thus, you must decide, how are you defining importance? Is the issue raised by your research question important in terms of its economic impact? Its impact on health and wellness? The health and wellness of children? Senior citizens? Everyone? Is the question/issue important in terms of its impact on a particular industry, profession, or vocation? Is it a pressing matter of social justice? In what way? Does the question/issue impact our educational system? Is the impact environmental? Does it involve technology and / or the media? These questions are meant to suggest the kind of claim for importance that might guide you in pulling together your research into a focused argument. NOTE: You will likely want to gesture back to your central claim about importance in the body of your essay, thus keeping your readers focused on the argument. 

In this section and throughout your essay use quotation, brief summary, and in-text citations carefully, using MLA or APA style consistently. 


Conclusions should be brief. Consider these options for how to craft your conclusion:

1.    Conclude by summarizing your essay briefly, restating the importance of your research (traditional conclusion)

2.     Conclude with one final example or bit of evidence about the importance of your research (a bit more dynamic)

3.    Conclude with a brief restatement of the importance of your research, and then suggest what you take to be the most important direction for further research on this or a related issue (strongly moves your readers forward in their thinking)

A successful response to this portion of the assignment will: 

  • Make a strong case for the importance of the research question
  • Effectively integrate sources into the essay
  • Be well organized according to the assignment suggestions or another logical structure
  • Work carefully and effectively with summary and quotation
  • Adhere carefully to a the MLA or APA style guide
  • Be effectively edited

Writing Program