The oral presentations you’ve been making are essentially pitches. If you make a strong enough case that I can feel confident you have a narrow topic and a good plan, I’m happy for you to proceed to do your research to further refine your thesis and support it.
The next stage of the process is to formalize your proposal in writing and produce the first five sources you’ve found of relevance to your topic. I hope you’re choosing fields of study that interest you so that the next many weeks will be pleasurable and rewarding instead of drudgery. Of course, I also demand that the thesis you define be specific, arguable, researchable, verifiable.
You’ll be even more clear in your White Paper, but for Thursday, I’ll need a proposal with sources. Following is an example from the Spring 2011 semester that does a nice job of explaining the relevance of the sources. I’m grateful to Victoria Converse for providing it.
Victoria Converse’s Research Proposal
For my research essay I will be examining America’s judicial flaw of false convictions. A study conducted by The University of Virginia in 2007 investigated 200 criminal cases and found that a majority of them were innocent people being held in prison for a average of 12 years due to substantial evidence that the court system failed to notice. As a nation that takes its law and justice system extremely seriously, America should not tolerate errors this catastrophic. However, this problem is shockingly common and each year more than 10,000 innocent people go to prison for crimes that they do not commit. While the most common reason for this is eyewitness misidentification, another problem is the failure to consider DNA evidence that could potentially free the innocent person and place the guilty one behind bars. This problem is mind-blowing considering we live in a country that is so focused on justice and placing the guilty in prison. It is inexcusable how so many innocent people get sent to jail because prosecutors and crime scene investigators choose to dismiss extremely important evidence. The following resources will be greatly helpful in conducting my research and exposing how common wrong convictions are:
Background: This article discusses the depth of wrongful convictions in the United States as well as other nations such as Canada. It focuses on how wrongful convictions occur and organizations that are working to try and prevent them.
How I Intend to Use It: This article will help me discover the most common reasons why innocent people end up in prison. It lists at least seven possible reasons as to how wrongful convictions happen which will all help me eventually find ways to prevent this problem from occurring.
Background: This article from The New York Times focuses on a study conducted by The University of Michigan about 328 criminal cases in which the convicted person was released from prison. Upon finding this evidence, the University believed that thousands of innocent people are in prison for crimes they did not commit. While the article does not fixate on DNA exonerations, there is a large portion of it that suggests new DNA evidence can easily overturn wrongful convictions.
How I Intend to Use It: The information about DNA exonerations will be extremely useful to me as a major aspect of my argument will be DNA evidence that gets ignored. The study also highlights exactly how large of a problem false convictions are in the United States by using a small group of convicted inmates and discovering exactly how many of them are actually innocent, something I will be trying to prove in my essay on a larger scale.
Background: While this website does not provide an actual essay or article on false convictions, it does provide background on an organization called “The Innocence Project”. This organization is dedicated to helping free innocent victims that were falsely convicted. It also provides a long list of people that were released from prison after prosecutors found new evidence that helped their case.
How I Intend to Use It: I plan on using the information found on this website by providing concrete examples of people that were able to be helped by the discovery or reopening of DNA or other evidence. This will further prove my point that so many innocent people go to prison for crimes they do not commit because law enforcement did not take the time to intensely go over every detail in a case.
Background: This article focuses on two men, one of which is in prison for a rape he insists he did not commit, and the other who says DNA evidence would prove he was falsely convicted of a double murder. The article states that prosecutors often resist reopening cases despite the fact that the reinstitution of a closed case could potentially free an innocent person from prison.
How I Intend to Use It: This article is entirely focused on the lengths that prosecutors go in order to step around the idea of reopening a case to do further DNA testing. Quite often, law enforcers are content with placing a person in prison and to them, a person in jail is a win whether they are innocent or not. This obviously is a major flaw in the justice system and I intend to expose this flaw with the help of this article as it offers a backstage pass into the world of criminology.
5. “Criminology” Beirne, Piers, and Messerschmidt, James. Criminology. Fort Worth, Texas. Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1991.
Background: This book provides background on all things related to Criminology. There is an entire chapter dedicated to false convictions that discusses all matters related to the problem.
How I Intend to Use It: This book will be very helpful to me when I am looking for background information and trying to become educated on the topic of criminology for the purposes of this essay. When I am looking for definitions and important things to know, I will reference this book.
- Write a formal version of your research proposal, identifying what you expect to find, or hope to find, or are open to finding, in as much detail as you can manage.
- The proposal can be brief, provided it is clear. Your plan is preliminary and will not obligate you to remain faithful, but it should be offered in good faith. (It’s a proposal, not your wedding vows. You can change your mind without a lawyer.)
- Identify and link to your best 5 academic sources. As in the model assignment above, describe the value you believe the sources have in proving your preliminary thesis.
- Post your Research Proposal and Sources in the A06: Proposals, 5 Sources category.
- DUE THU FEB 23 before class.
- Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
- Research Process grade category (10%)