“So what?” This is the one question a student in my class would not want to see on their papers. The danger of writing a researched essay is that often students submit a patchwork of quotes and facts from various sources but do not do anything with the information. At the end of the day, what is your position on the issue and what do you want YOUR readers to come away thinking? So you say anorexia and bulimia are serious medical conditions with such and such symptoms, causes, and effects. So what? This is one way to encourage students to value their own judgment and their own observations about the topic.
One student said that he will be writing about how violent video games have negative impact on the players, that it can make people violent in real life. He then confessed that he actually believes the opposite – it’s just that there is more literature out there arguing this position. I said that’s fine. But it’d also make a fine paper to argue that while more literature in research says one thing, my observations point to another position. Another student confessed she’s going to argue against her own position because there’s more to say about the other side. So, I encouraged them to take faith in their position and explore ways to defend it. We’ll see what they do.
Here are some of the topics my students are exploring:
1. NFL and head injury – NFL is not doing enough to really enforce the rules for safe games
2. the positive influence that comic books can have on children
3. polygamy – this should be a personal choice and the government should stay out of it
4. gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military
5. marijuana should be legalized in all 50 states
6. reality TV broadens our view of different lifestyles
7. reality TV is far from “real”
8. the effects of divorce on children
9. the causes of eating disorders among teenage girls
10. child beauty pageants should be banned
11. harsher punishments for rapists
12. cyberbullying – what we can do to prevent it
13. how music changes the world
14. MPAA ratings – is it fair?
15. violent video games – is it responsible for real-life violence?
16. we should maintain the Bush tax-cuts
17. the negative effects of bullying on the bullied as well as the bully – and how it affects society at large
18. legalization of gay marriage
19. binge drinking and college students – lowering the drinking age can alleviate this problem
20. negative impact of “explicit” music – hiphop and rap in particular – on young listeners