Explore DCs Music Scene

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Explore DCs Music Scene
Word count: 4,000 words minimum
Workload: 30 hours


Half-hearted arguments, sloppy writing and unconvincing research will be severely penalized.

While your final project can be informed by your presentation, blog contributions, and discussions, it must however reflect a semester of researching, reading, writing and thinking. Your research question and argument, for example, must be considerably revised and enhanced throughout your research process.

Proofread and rewrite your paper, several times. Do not turn in a first draft. Poor writing is heavily penalized.

Good grades throughout the semester do not guarantee (but can predict) a good grade on your final project. There is no grading curve in this class. Your final project is your most important assignment this semester (20 points). A grade checklist, describing the different component of your grade, is provided with these guidelines.

Your topic

Define the boundaries of your topic in the title. Choose a topic you have a strong interest in. Good topics are narrow and focused. Three variables are better than two variables.

The introduction

Do not be misled by the small word count requirement: this final research paper evaluates your critical thinking skills and research abilities. Your writing must be analytical, argumentative and concise: avoid verbose language. Your introduction must start with a clear statement about your topic, research question and argument. The boundaries of your topic must be clearly defined. Your paper introduction must summarize your research.

Your research question

Your research question must aim at solving a problem. A research question is open-ended, and cannot be answer by yes or no. It usually starts with Why and explores a contradiction, a tension. Beware of fake research questions, for which answers are easy to find. If your argument (the answer to the question) precedes your question, your research question is not one. Finding a research question takes time, several hours of thinking, of pondering ideas and contradictions. It is generally refined during your research. By definition, your instructor cannot impose/find a research question for you. Your instructor can however confirm if your question is a good research question or not. You must spend several hours of critical thinking and analysis before phrasing a research question. Half-hearted research questions with obvious answers will be severely penalized.

Your sources and analysis

Select only thought provoking, academically interesting and intellectually challenging sources, reflecting a wide range of writing, methodologies and viewpoints. Compile ten sources on your topic. If you cannot find sources on your topic, consult a librarian. Your research will involve skimming through dozens of articles in order to find the sources you can integrate into your research.


Now, its time to polish your essay and writing.

Read/Skim The Elements of Style available here: http://faculty.washington.edu/heagerty/Courses/b572/public/StrunkWhite.pdf

Rewrite and proofread several times. Commonplaces, general ideas and verbose language will be severely penalized. Each word counts. Focus on ideas, arguments and critical thinking. Be as concise as you can.

Common Mistakes to avoid
1. Failure to provide the proper context to frame the research question.?2. Failure to delimit the boundary conditions for your research.?3. Failure to cite landmark historical works in your proposed area of study.?4. Failure to stay focused on the research question.?5. Too much rambling — going “all over the map” without a clear sense of direction. 6. Sloppy or imprecise writing.

Final Paper Checklist

Before submitting your paper, complete the following checklist. Your paper is graded on 20 points.


(4 points) My research question and argument are identifiable, plausible, novel, sophisticated, insightful, and crystal clear.

? (1/5) the introductory paragraph of my essay tells the reader the subject of my research, and defines key terms I will use in my argument.
? (1/5) my introductory paragraph clearly states an original and novel research question.
? (2/5) my introduction contains a clearly stated, novel and sophisticated thesis/argument, which explains how and why something happened; and answers my research question.


(4 points) The argumentation is evident, understandable, and appropriate. Excellent transitions from point to point. Paragraphs support solid topic sentences. All ideas in my essay flow logically; the argument in each paragraph is identifiable, reasonable, and sound.

? (1/5) I have thought about how my paragraphs are arranged, and they are structured in a way that best supports my argument.
? (1/5) I have checked to make sure that I completely tackle one part of my argument before moving on to the next, and I have checked to make sure that I do not unnecessarily revisit arguments I began earlier in the introduction.
? (1/5) each paragraph is focused around a main idea (“mini-thesis”), which is stated in the paragraph’s first sentence (“topic sentence”).
? (0.5/5) each paragraph employs evidence supporting that idea. That evidence is analyzed; that is, I have used my own words to tell the reader why and how my evidence supports the topic sentence.
? (0.5/5) each paragraph has a workable transition from its predecessor.


(4 points) Evidence is properly acknowledged. Quotes and citations are formatted properly.

? (1/5) I have minimized or eliminated block quotes. When I have used them, I have indented them on the left, single-spaced them, and not placed quotations at the start and end.
? (1/5) each time I bring in evidence that is not clearly common knowledge, I have cited the source of that information with a foot- or endnote.
? (2/5) all material I have quoted appears between quote marks; each time I quote I have checked to make sure the quotation is properly integrated into the sentence; each of my quotes clearly relates to a foot- or endnote which offers the source and page number of the quotation; for each of my quotes, it is clear who the speaker of the quote is, and the circumstances in which the speaker authored the quote (relevant time, place, and context). My foot- or endnote style conforms to the style in my style manual.


(4 points) Student clearly summarizes sources and relates sources to main argument; analysis is fresh and exciting, posing new ways to think of the material.

? (2/5) the student clearly states the sources importance in one sentence
? (1/5) the student clearly explains why/how the source relates to the introduction.
? (1/5) the student clearly summarizes the reasons why the source should be integrated in the paper.

WRITING (4 points)

(4 points) Sentence structure, grammar, and diction excellent; correct use of punctuation and citation style; minimal to no spelling errors; absolutely no run-on sentences or comma splices.

? (1/5) each page is numbered consecutively; I have used a common typeface, like Courier12, or Times Roman; I have double-spaced the paper, and have left one-inch margins at top, bottom, and sides; the title of my paper clearly relates to its contents.
? (1/5) I have proofread the paper for spelling and grammar errors.
? (3/5) I have re-written the paper at least three times, identifying and eliminating instances of:
? passive voice
? inconsistent tenses
? subject/verb disagreement
? dangling clauses
? improper pronoun references
? comma splices, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments
? colloquial phrases
? I have read the paper aloud to myself or to someone else, listening for sentences that do not work.

Please pick a topic regarding the evolution of music in Washington D.C, please please pick an enforced narrow topic. For example: Punk music been at