An Inquiry-Based Research Essay: Assignment Sheet

Essay #2: An Inquiry-Based Research Essay on the Social Justice Issue of Your Choice

Assignment Description

For this assignment, you will write a 8-10 page (2,000-2,500 words) research essay. The objective in developing this inquiry-based research essay is not, perhaps, like other research essays with which you may be familiar. In an inquiry-based essay, the development of a research question is the cornerstone of the essay, providing a guideline for you to follow your research wherever the information takes you. You are investigating and possibly raising additional questions rather than providing a definitive answer or arguing for one side or another. Therefore, the The careful formulation of a solid research question about your topic is crucial to ensure your inquiry will be effective.

You have been asked to identify an article to serve as a model for the essay your are writing, so your essay will take on the general shape and contours of that model essay. Since each student’s model essay is unique, the essays each of you write will be different. Some essays will argue for particular positions, some will be explanatory or investigative in nature, and some will be intended to inform. Your genre’s conventions–where the thesis goes and how it’s worded, how the claim/support structure is arranged, and how the document concludes–will determine, but not fully dictate, the arrangement of your own essay. Genres are socially agreed up methods of arrangement, but they’re usually flexible. 

Once your research question is finalized, you will conduct extensive inquiry into the potential implications and significance of your research question. You will seek connections between the information you discover during your research and the potential significance to your topic, identified audiences, and further inquiry. Your thorough research of multiple sources, and full analysis of your findings, will be the foundation from which you develop your essay. Your sources should be used as evidence to support, contradict, or expand on your ideas, and your essay must include extensive analysis around the question you explore.

The following types of research must be incorporated into your essay:

  • Field notes about an observation that you conduct
  • An interview conducted by you with a subject relevant to your research
  • At least 4 academic sources
  • At least 3 popular media sources relevant to your topic
  • Rhetorical analysis of at least 2 documents currently in use by the agency [If you have already done this, we will take that into account when we offer feedback. In most cases, it should not be included in your final draft.]

Throughout the research process, you will write several short assignments in various genres. These genre assignments are designed to keep your research focused, to have you reflect on the research process and your sources so that you might better analyze them, and to help you present strong ideas in your essay. Each genre assignment is designed to help you through various stages of your research.

Writing Genre #1: Research Topic Reflection

This reflection will be based on your topic exploration and initial research. You’ll reflect on what may have inspired the desire for further inquiry, including how you came up with the question, why it might be important, and how you plan to explore the question in your research. If you can’t decide on a single question at this point, write about the top three you have in mind. We’ll work together on narrowing your focus into one final research question, and we’ll evaluate examples of strong research questions.

Writing Genre #2: Research Proposal (1-2 typed, single-spaced pages)

The proposal should identify the specific, final research question that you determine based on your initial exploration/research. Your proposal should discuss the same ideas as the topic reflection, but should be a more finely tuned presentation of the question your research will explore. You will need to include:

  • Your research question with some context. What is it about this question that interests you? Why is it relevant to social justice or social action?
  • A timeline; when will you conduct your observation(s) and interview(s)? By which point will you have completed research for secondary sources?
  • The name of a non-profit agency (houses of worship are fine for this) with the name and contact information (email and phone number) of someone there who has agreed to work with you.
  • A description of your audience and the name of publication (with a URL, if relevant) for which your essay might be appropriate.
  • A bibliography of the work you have so far completed.

NOTE: This assignment is the last chance to change your research question. Once your proposal has been approved, the question you propose is final.

Writing Genre #3: Report on Research in Progress (1-2 typed, single-spaced pages)

In this report you will provide an update on your research in progress. You should provide the following information:

  • Discuss the sources you have found so far and analyze their credibiity.
  • Provide details about each source (including observations and interviews): how was each found, what makes it viable, and how you imagine each one effectively supporting your ideas
  • Which sources do you think will work best in your essay?
  • Identify a source you found while conducting your research but have discarded, and explain why you are excluding it
  • Discuss a source you are considering using, but about which you are still unsure, and explain your uncertainty
  • Identify what’s missing in your research, and speculate about information you are still seeking from additional sources

Writing Genre #4: Post-Essay Reflection

In this reflection, you will explore the process of researching and incorporating sources into your essay. Your reflection will provide an opportunity for you to think through the connections between your sources, how you have presented them to your audience in your essay, and for what purpose. Fully analyze the rhetorical strategies you have employed. Discuss how those strategies and the process of writing your research essay have contributed to the further development of your theory of writing. 

Submission: Through Blackboard


  • February 22: Assignment Introduction
  • February 27: Post Writing Genre #1: Research Topic Reflection
  • March 6: Post First-Draft Writing Genre #2: Research Proposal
  • March 13: Post Final-Draft Writing Genre #2: Research Proposal (1-2 typed, single-spaced pages). During this week, you’ll meet with us for an individual conference.
  • March 20: During this week, you’ll meet with us for an individual conference.
  • March 27: Post Writing Genre #3: Report on Research in Progress (1-2 typed, single-spaced pages)
  • April 10: Post First-Draft Inquiry-Based Essay
  • April 24: Post Final Draft Inquiry-Based Essay
  • April 24: Post Writing Genre #4: Post-Essay Reflection