GEN499: General Education Capstone
Final Research Project
The topic of your project needs to be a contemporary societal problem, such as healthcare reform, immigration reform, privacy rights, euthanasia, First Amendment Rights, stem cell research, capital punishment, corporate prisons, legalizing drugs, ageism, animal rights, cloning, prayer in schools, racial profiling, recycling/conservation, sexism, outsourcing jobs, workplace bullying, etc. The topic must focus on a single aspect, as in “How far do corporations intrude into the private lives of their employers?” or “The social costs of financing the distribution of custom-designed drugs.” You may suggest another topic to use, but the instructor must approve the topic during the Week Two Discussion.
The Final Research Project will present research relating the responsibilities of a critical thinker to contemporary society. In this assignment, you will do the following:
• Research one aspect of a contemporary social problem.
• Define the problem.
• Propose a possible solution for the problem.
• Create an argument that supports your thesis position. You should take on the perspective of a critically thinking researcher. The argument must present a thesis statement and evidence to support the thesis statement.
• Evaluate the ethical outcomes that result from the position you take on the issue and explain how those outcomes would influence society and culture.
• Interpret statistical data from at least two peer-reviewed scholarly sources.
• Evaluate evidence using the following standards: validity, reliability, and bias related to the chosen topic and accurately identify strengths and weaknesses.
Research and Define the Problem
You must take on the perspective of your major field of study and explain in your paper what that perspective is and how it informs your view of the topic. The topics listed above are far too broad to write about in 10–12 pages (3,300–3,900 words). Instead, you must choose a narrowly defined thesis and approach it from the perspective of your field.
Example: If you are an economics major, and you are interested in immigration reform, you should approach a very specific aspect of immigration reform through the lens of economic theory and practice. A specific thesis question would not be, “How does illegal immigration influence the U.S. economy?” One could write thousands of pages on such a topic. Instead, a better question would be, “How do illegal immigrant hotel workers in Chicago impact the economy of Northern Illinois?” You would then want to do the research and determine the positive and negative impacts they have, ultimately trying to conclude how illegal immigration in this area should be approached ethically.
How to Hone Your Thesis: It is important that you start your research early in this course. Try to find the most important contemporary questions and theories in your field of study and then align the most important questions with a very specific aspect of the general topics above. For example, if you are a psychology major, you might want to start thinking within the realm of healthcare reform or aspects of mental health and criminality in the prison system.
You must present a complete argument, including a major claim with at least five points of evidence, information, or data that will prove the claim.
• The thesis statement must be
o A clear, simple declarative sentence as the first or last sentence in the opening paragraph of the essay.
o Of such a nature that it can be substantiated, corroborated, verified, and proved through appeal to primary or secondary academic research source materials.
• The introductory paragraph must
o Present the thesis statement, an explanation for the importance of the topic, and its relation to the student’s field of study.
• Beliefs, opinions, and personal opinions must not be introduced at any point in the essay.
• All beliefs and opinions should be supported with academic evidence. Sweeping generalizations with no supporting academic evidence do not reflect adequate critical thinking skills.
• Do not include rhetorical questions in your essays. All the questions that are pertinent to your project need to be answered in your essay and your answers again need to be supported with evidence from peer-reviewed journal articles and academically published books.
Attributes of Good Critical Thinking in Papers
• Your paper should include academic sources that explain multiple sides of the issue.
• The evidence that you use should come from high-level researchers engaged in your field of study.
• Your interpretations of the evidence should be objective and state the conclusions and theses presented in the evidence clearly and fairly.
• Your paper should place the various forms of evidence in relation to one another and demonstrate why one form or perspective is stronger than the other positions that one could take on the issue.
• Your paper should point out the limitations of current evidence and attempt to indicate areas for future research.
Ethical Outcomes of the Position You Take
After you have defined the problem and created an argument about how one ought to respond to the issue, you need to explain the ethical outcomes of the position you have taken. This should again be in relation to the field of study in which you are working. There might be different ethical outcomes that result from your analysis. For example, going back to the example issue above, from an economic standpoint, illegal immigrants might contribute positively to the economy of Northern Illinois in a specific number of ways. Thus, an economist who believes that positive impact to the economy is the greatest good would say that one should promote the use of illegal immigrants. However, because these workers are often paid less than others and eliminate jobs that could be done by residents of Chicago, there could be other negative ethical outcomes that would outweigh the positive impacts to the economy. It is your goal to draw out the ethical implications of your thesis and explain the underlying rationale that is the foundation for your claim that one action is better than another.
• Critical thinkers are those who can outline the positive and negative ethical impacts of their positions. In addition, they are able to provide a rationale for why they believe a specific position is the right position, even when it leads to negative outcomes.
• Critical thinkers are also able to be honest and objective about the limitations and gray areas that pertain to their theses.
Final Research Project Requirements
The Final Research Project may be presented as a formal research paper (essay format), a PowerPoint presentation, a video, or a podcast equivalent to a minimum of 10 – 12 pages in APA format (approximately 3,300 – 3,900 typewritten words, excluding title page and reference pages). Written essays must adhere to all APA formatting standards and requirements, as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
PowerPoint presentations must include the full text (at least 3,300 words) in the speaker notes portion of the slides, with appropriate citations, and full reference pages. PowerPoint presentations must adhere to the basic principles of PowerPoint presentation design and must include citations and references according to APA standards and requirements.
Videos and podcasts must include a full transcript, in APA format, including appropriate in-text citations and a references page.
There must be no more than 15% quoted content in the body of your essay. All quoted material must bear quotation marks and a full quotation citation.
• There must be 10 or more source documents used, cited, and referenced.
• Multimedia sources (such as videos) may be used, but no more than two such sources may be used. If multimedia sources are used, then they must be authored and distributed by credible sources, such as universities, law schools, medical schools, or professors, and they must contain citations or references that lead to primary source documents that can be accessed through the Ashford University Library.
• Where print documents are used for source materials, those must be peer-reviewed, scholarly journal articles, and academically published books. Popular media sources (e.g., newspapers, magazines, television and radio shows, etc.) may not be used. Materials from advocacy groups (e.g., Greenpeace, Human Rights Campaign, National Organization for Women, etc.) may not be used.
• Two of the peer-reviewed scholarly sources used must include statistical evidence, which must be accurately interpreted.
• Sites such as ProCon.org and Wikipedia should not be used.
• Religious texts are neither peer-reviewed nor scholarly and so may not be used in any way.
You must have a summary conclusion as the last paragraph(s) of the project, presenting the major point of the essay and the evidence supporting that point.
The content body of the project must be 3,300 words or more. The word count does not include anything in the title page, running header, or reference list. It is expected that you meet all logistical requirements of this paper.
• The list of references must include only those source documents that are cited within the body of the project.
• The project must fully comply with APA formatting standards and requirements as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center: title page, running header with page numbers, font face and size, line spacing, citations, and reference page(s).
Carefully review the Grading Rubric for the criteria that will be used to evaluate your assignment.
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