It’s that time again: students in my advanced composition class are choosing topics for their research papers. While there is a whole sheet of instructions that I give to them, there are a few bulleted “big” points that I want to really drive home for them as they rev up and get going with their ideas. Here is one:
Your topic for this paper must be original and must be focused on a change in the last ten years. You cannot use a paper or topic that you’ve written on for another class, and I, the benevolent dictator, am beseeching you not to write on hackneyed topics that have been overdone. Specifically, please do not write on the death penalty, abortion, cloning, gun control, prayer in schools, evolution vs. creationism, the obesity epidemic, animal testing, or marijuana legalization. I’ve read 3,113 papers on each of these topics already. It is virtually impossible to find a new angle or point of view on such already-well-covered topics.
Having reviewed the guidelines, students are asked to post brainstorms of possible ideas — to which I respond — and then select the topic they intend to commit to for their paper. This must be submitted to me along with an accompanying open-ended research question. Famously, some past topic blunders for this paper about “a change in the past ten years” have been “the Amish,” “gold,” “Egypt,” and “sharks.”
The current class is doing better than that, but still. Here are some topics and questions proposed today:
1. Abortion: What is it and should the government be managing it?
2. Marijuana and its legal uses
3. What are the positive health benefits to the legal medical use of marijiana [sic]?
4. Gun control laws
5. Medical marihuana [sic] becoming more legal, and the good effects.
6. Marijuana Medical Use is Becoming More Accepted
7. Gun laws
8. Should Marijuana be legal?
9. Is fast food the cause of obesity, or is it the persons?
10. should marijuana be legal?
11. Abortion? A right or should it be governed?
12. Should guns be illegal? What would happen if they were?
In contrast, the students who push themselves to come up with specific, original, fresh ideas make the teacher’s day and, even more importantly, open their peers’ eyes to greater possibilities. Thus, on this Sunday afternoon, as I am besieged by quick, easy lists, I am also applauding loudly for the students who came up with these ideas:
1. 3D printing’s popularity has increased drastically, as more materials and printer variety becomes available. How does this affect hobbyists and companies?
2. There has been an increased focus on how batteries are composed and operate, possibly leading to a battery revolution.
3. Has the use of debit cards and credit cards, influenced younger generations in their thinking about money? Has this contributed to an increase in personal debt?
4. Under most health insurance plans, circumcisions are not covered by insurance. Why has our culture shifted its views on it that it is now considered cosmetic?
5. Has Common-Core Math really improved math scores, and is it really more beneficial to children to learn math this way?
6. Are trend diets like Whole-30 and Paleo really healthy to live on?
7. Should there be a minimum weight limit for the models presented in the media?
8. The causes/effects of anorexia nervous and how it plays a part on the young persons mind. (What new technology or counseling is now present and available to patients that was non existent 10 years earlier. How do people notice someone with this condition before its too late. (Eating disorders)
9. Does the cost of a college student’s tuition and supplies affect the outcome of their education? Is there anything that could be done to help struggling students?
10. The fall of al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden but the new Islamic State and their objectives
11. The new discovery of a new dinosaur called Mansourasaurus Shahinae in Egypt
12. The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
13. The recognition of the transgender community
14. How has the popularity of super heroes and the idea of someone having special powers changed? What has contributed to this?
15. How is the “millennial” mindset changing the workplace? What are the positives and negatives.
16. Why is Brazil’s middle class growing so rapidly?
17. Has there been an increase in the formation of non-profits over the last ten years and do they actually make a profit?
18. What is the effect of crypto-currency on our current economy?
In summary, today’s quick take-away: when given a task, bother yourself to do it right and do it well.
Typing: Maybe 3 minutes?
Editing: 10 minutes of copying and pasting
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