Research Essay

Overview: This assignment requires you to briefly examine the role that a particular idea in science or a particular invention played in human culture.

Topics: The idea or invention that you discuss may come from any time period or society. However, since the instructions require you to discuss the cultural impact of that idea, you should not select some obscure subject that was important only to a few experts. Further, you should avoid really large ideas that have had such a broad impact that they would be difficult to summarize in a few pages, evolution being an obvious example.

Design of Essay: You essay should answer two questions:

  1. What problem, either practical or theoretical, did this invention or idea address? What was the inventor/scientist trying to solve or accomplish?
  2. What changes in the culture came about as a result of this new invention or new idea?


  1. This paper should be approximately 900-1100 words long, or about 4 to 5 pages.
  2. You will need to use a minimum of four sources. I prefer that these be academic books or journal articles. However, well- researched journalistic articles, for those doing contemporary subjects, are potentially acceptable. Discuss this with me on an individual basis. Ordinary websites are not acceptable, though articles reprinted or originally published on the web may be. Again, discuss this with me on an individual basis.
  3. Your essay will have to use some form of standard citation: MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and ASA are the most common. Your essay should also have a bibliographic page that conforms to the same citation style. Both footnotes and endnotes are acceptable.
  4. I prefer typed papers. I will accept e-mail submissions, though don't use that as an excuse to skip class on the due date!

Due Date: This essay is due December 5. Students who turn this in on time will have an opportunity to rewrite the essay if they are unhappy with their original grade.