Topics in Agency vs Structure: A Research Essay

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ENGL 120 Research Paper Prompt

Topics in Agency vs Structure: A Research Essay


Thus far in our course, we have explored the tension between individual agency (our free will, personal decisions, etc.) and structural forces (the power of our environments and the systems in which we operate). This research essay process allows you to select a specific topic and corresponding question within the course theme. You will conduct research on that topic, and synthesize that research with your own informed position (through creating topic proposal, annotated bibliography, and rough draft). Ultimately, you will develop an academic, argumentative essay in response to the prompt you select. This assignment offers you not only an opportunity to learn more about a pressing topic in American society and culture, but also hone your academic research, critical thinking and writing skills.


Select a research topic and corresponding question from the Research Essay Topics list


  1. Select a topic and corresponding research question.
  2. Use the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database, available through Cuyamaca’s online library system to conduct your research. Type the topic name into the search box in Opposing Viewpoints to find the research starter information and articles associated with your topic. See attached Research Essay Topics and Database Information sheet attached below.
  • Note: You are required to use the Opposing Viewpoints database; do not just Google your topic.
  1. Prepare a formal Topic Proposal and Annotated Bibliography (WR3) that identifies your topic and research question, and summarizes at least 5 relevant and reputable sources, including at least one academic source.
  2. Submit a complete draft of the research essay for feedback.
  3. Revise draft based on feedback to ultimately submit a polished, final draft of the research essay (WR4).


  • Final research paper must offer an original thesis in response to the research question, and support that thesis with subclaims, evidence and analysis of reputable sources.
  • Final research paper must be 5-7 pages long (or 1600-2100 words), double spaced, 1” margins, 12 point Times New Roman or 11 point Arial. Essays that do not meet minimum length requirements will not receive a passing grade.
  • Final research paper must present evidence and analysis from at least three sources from the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database.

Note that while you summarize 5 sources in your Annotated Bibliography, you only are required to 3 sources in the actual research essay. The idea is to research widely, and only use the most relevant sources of what you locate and read.

  • Use in-text citations and include a works cited page according to MLA standards.


  • Locate and evaluate reputable, scholarly sources on a specific topic within the course unit
  • Respond to that research question in an argumentative essay that includes a thesis, subclaims, and well-developed body paragraphs
  • Synthesize, present and analyze evidence from research in support of claims
  • Produce a largely error-free academic research paper of 5-7 pages (1600-2100 words), citing at least 3 sources
  • Avoid plagiarism by properly citing quoted, summarized, and paraphrased material using MLA format in in-text citations and a works cited page

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