18 Introduction

Module Five: Developing a Research Plan

Module Introduction

What we find changes who we become.

~ Peter Morville, Ambient Findability

Research composition is the product of merging original critical thinking with timely, credible information. We conduct research almost every day—from looking up show times for movies to comparing restaurants on Yelp. Far less frequently, however, do we dip into a large (and often scattered) body of information to support an argument. Now that we have a stronger understanding of some of the important features of rhetorical theory, it is time to apply that knowledge to the composition of an argument on a topic of your choice. This learning module is designed to help you begin the process of planning and researching your term paper for this course.

Students might be surprised at how often they have to formulate arguments in their work beyond the college classroom. Attorneys in all fields must frequently draft complex arguments based on facts, expert testimony, and historical precedent. Politicians need to establish the historical and argumentative grounds for potential changes in laws and regulations, and business professionals are often called upon to defend their decisions in writing. Whenever issues of policy or protocol arise in the workplace, individuals and organizations are called upon to mediate arguments.

As we noted in the first learning module, digital technologies provide contemporary writers with access to a wealth of information, and yet the activities of locating and incorporating credible supporting materials in a research paper can still be challenging. Developing a plan and thinking carefully about which resources you might use can save a writer time in the drafting process and help contribute to a focused, clear piece of persuasive writing. (1)


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Plan the stages of a research topic.
  • Identify a topic for exploration.
  • Identify a series of guiding research questions
  • Establish a thesis statement.
  • Identify the subdivisions of an argument.
  • Locate and assess research materials.
  • Create an outline for planning an argument.
  • Draft a topic proposal for an argument.
  • Create an annotated list of resources (Works Cited).
  • Apply the elements of a Works Cited entry under the guidelines of the eighth edition of the Modern Language Association (MLA). (1)



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