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Writing a Reflective I-Search Research Paper


This paper is designed to teach the writer and the reader something valuable about a chosen topic and about the nature of searching and discovery. As opposed to the standard research paper where a writer usually assumes a detached and objective stance, the “I Search” paper allows you to relate your experience of hunting for facts and opinions first hand, and to provide a step-by-step record of the search process. It’s a research paper that is overtly reflective. 

choose a topic interests you, a problem or concern you want to be more informed about. Please choose a topic of current debate. Seek out a current controversial issue at the local, national, or global level. I want you to enter into an existing conversation. The topic has to be argumentatively rich, meaning that there have to be many different viewpoints on the issue. Provide an overview of all sides of the debate and discuss potential ramifications. All topics must be approved via paper proposal.

After you have chosen a topic and checked to make sure research sources are available through resources at the library, you will type up a one page proposal, in which you explain what your topic is, why you have chosen it, and how you intend to go about searching and writing. If you do not submit a proposal, you will not be eligible to submit your paper. 

Format: 5-7 pages, MLA format, with works cited

The paper should have three distinct sections: 1) What I Know, Assume or Imagine; 2) The Search; and 3) What I Discovered. The three-part format of this paper should be organized explicitly – for example, set off with subheadings.

Part 1: What I Know, Assume, or Imagine

Before conducting any formal research, write a section in which you explain to the reader what you think you know, what you assume, or what you imagine about your topic. 

Part 2: The Search

Test your knowledge, assumptions, or conjectures by researching your topic thoroughly. Consult useful articles, books, magazines, newspapers, films and library databases When possible, interview people who are authorities or who are familiar with your topic. You may also use less traditional sources of information such as Twitter or online video to help you research process (use your knowledge of evaluating sources!).  Be investigative and enthusiastic in your research.

Write about your search in a narrative form (chronologically with specific details) to record the steps of the discovery process. Do not feel obligated to tell everything, but highlight the happenings and facts you uncovered that were crucial to your hunt and contributed to your understanding of the topic. Document sources of information using citations when appropriate and necessary.

Part 3: What I Discovered

After concluding your search, compare what you thought you knew, assumed, or imagined with what you actually discovered and offer some personal commentary and/or draw some conclusions. Your paper may end with the argument you will eventually make, but this is not necessary.  This part of the paper will also contain citations indicating the information you learned from your sources. 

This paper is much more about the research and the research process than it is you particular view on the subject.

Works Cited and In-Text Citations

Your essay should use a minimum of 5 different sources either by quotation, paraphrase, or display of information documented in MLA Style. No long quotations are permitted. The essay requires a Works Cited page that follows MLA specifications.

Address your paper to peer-scholars who might be interested in your subject and could be interested in your analysis and/or findings.

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