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Research Essay Assignment Guidelines: Requirements and Checklist for Success


Submission requirements: Assignment must be double-spaced and formatted according to MLA guidelines.

Please Note: Your assignment will not receive higher than a C- if you do not meet the minimum word count requirements.

Value: 35%

You cannot change your essay topic/argument (you may revise your thesis) after you have submitted the research proposal and outline assignment. If you submit a paper on a different topic from that described in your research proposal and outline assignment, you will receive a zero, and you will not be given a chance to rewrite the assignment. Essays that remain on topic but significantly deviate from the proposed argument/outline will be reviewed carefully. 

The research essay assignment represents the culmination of our work in the course thus far. Once you have successfully completed the assignment, you will have met the following learning outcomes:

  • Demonstrate the ability to develop a mature writing process that involves developing and refining a research topic in consultation with others, pre-writing, planning, drafting, peer editing, revising, and proof-reading;
  • Find, evaluate and integrate source material;
  • Summarize and respond to academic texts;
  • Develop an argument with a thesis or controlling idea, using appropriate rhetorical patterns and supporting material for their audience and purpose;
  • Write unified, coherent paragraphs, including effective introductions and conclusions, and transitions between and within paragraphs; and
  • Compose arguments with clear, cohesive and effective English.

Write a 1250­­ to 1500-word thesis-driven essay. In other words, your essay must have a central argument (thesis) about your topic, an essay map that outlines how you will develop/support your argument, and a sense of purpose that reflects the rhetorical situation.

It must also use relevant evidence from at least three academic sources (you may not use non-academic sources unless you have cleared it with me in writing). You may, of course, use/refer to more than five sources; however, please remember that university-level writing must do more than describe or explain: it must analyse, evaluate, and argue.

Papers that are largely descriptive or that rely chiefly on summarizing other writer's arguments, examples, and ideas will not receive good grades. No more than 20% of your essay can be made up of paraphrased or quoted material. Essays that exceed this percentage will fail.

Finally, your essay must demonstrate your ability to use proper academic writing conventions (i.e. summarize and paraphrase effectively and correctly, use an appropriate essay structure, and demonstrate proper academic citation—MLA 8th edition).

Your essay contains your first and last name in the title of the document

Your paper adheres to MLA formatting guidelines

Your paper contain proper in-text citation and a complete and correct Works Cited page 

Your paper makes an original, interesting argument that contributes to the academic conversation

Your paper performs accurate, sophisticated, and intelligent analysis of secondary, peer-reviewed sources

Your paper uses additional sources in a sophisticated manner and sources are properly integrated and cited

Your analysis moves beyond sources to develop an individual argument

Your title creatively indicates the paper’s argument and topic

Your introduction gives main idea of the paper and has focused thesis statement that clearly states the paper’s argument and is followed by an essay map

Your introduction provides relevant context necessary for your audience to understand your argument

Your introduction clearly states the argument’s significance (the “so-what?”) in the introduction.

Your introduction demonstrates a well-developed and grounded understanding of the argument’s significance and place in the overall research conversation

Your paragraphs open with a clear argument that is proven throughout the body of the paragraph.

The arguments presented in each paragraph directly support your thesis statement.

Your paragraphs provide sufficient/specific evidence from secondary sources and includes sufficient critical sources to frame/support argument

Your arguments are structured logically, with transition words/phrases between and within paragraphs

Each paragraph directly relates to and supports the paper’s thesis: contains one clear claim, with evidence and explanation of how the evidence supports the claim and in turn, also supports the thesis

The arguments presented within your paragraphs are your own, and are not a summary of sources


Conclusion effectively summarizes the major points of the paper, restating the argument and providing a sense of closure, giving final analysis

Your conclusion highlights the importance of your argument(s)

  • You do not select appropriate secondary sources. At least three of your articles must come from peer-reviewed and/or scholarly journals
  • Your essay does not demonstrate an understanding of the basic expectations of academic writing and the research essay (e.g. it simply summarizes sources and/or makes use of patch writing, linking paraphrased ideas together to construct paragraphs, etc.)
  • There is evidence of intentional or unintentional plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct
  • If the grammar/spelling/language/structural issues within the paper are such that the reader must re-read sentences in an attempt to understand the argument; there are significant grammatical/spelling/language/structural issues in 30% or more of the assignment.

Please be aware: this assignment may be submitted to an English 100 database which contains papers from previous terms and from other instructors’ sections. The purpose of this database is to prevent plagiarism; any and all suspicious papers will be cross-referenced to those already in the database.

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