UWS and COMP Essays: The Research Essay

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Unlike research essays you probably did as a high-school student, college-level research writing is argumentative and does not merely report. Your essay will primarily be an argument about your primary text or subject but will also be engaging with and responding to the existing conversations occurring about that primary text or subject.

Where do I even start?! (Don’t panic.)

How do I use my sources?

Types of research theses:

A research thesis BOTH makes a claim about the primary source or topic AND identifies how that claim responds to the critical conversation. A strong thesis may:

What about motive?

More than any other essay you will write for UWS, your research essay will depend heavily on MOTIVE. Motive is both why we write and how/why we are entering a conversation. Your thesis is the contribution you are making to that conversation and fulfills your motive.

Dos and do-nots


Do not:

Example: Introduction from a student research essay

Is it possible to make efforts to encourage oppressed or marginalized groups while simultaneously sending messages of discouragement, even unintentionally? Such a situation may seem contradictory, but then, “Aarne Thompson folktale type 440”, commonly known as “The Frog Prince,” is full of contradictions. A frog is portrayed as revolting but is then ultimately revealed to be an attractive partner, and a princess is rewarded both for the assertion of her wishes and for deference to those of another. Two stories adhering to this archetype, one modern and one older and more traditional, both show this duality. One, The Princess and the Frog, is a relatively recent version, was released by Walt Disney Animation in late 2009 and tells the story of a waitress in 1920’s New Orleans who first transforms into a frog and then into a princess. The other is an older text, considered a classic, and was formally published through the efforts of the Brothers Grimm in 1812, and known as “The Frog King.” While both appear to be mainly independent takes on the same tale type, there do seem to be some apparent connections between the two. These two different versions of the tale provide case studies for how the story manages to simultaneously send overt messages encouraging self-assertion and social mobility while undermining those messages by endorsing existing social hierarchies.

Much of the existing scholarly writing regarding both works has paid specific attention to the gender politics of the film, although the work on The Princess and the Frog generally focuses on the racial implications of the story. Opinions on those implications are by no means unanimous, and even individual reactions have often been mixed.  … Further research regarding the texts and analysis of them reveal that how the stories deal with race and gender are part of a comprehensive approach to social hierarchies in general.

Credit: The Brandeis University Writing Center, 2020.