Controversial Essay: Corporal Punishment

Controversial Paper and Annotated Bibliography Guidelines


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The final assignment for this course will be an individual assignment that discusses a controversial topic in child wellbeing, maltreatment, or the child welfare system. Students’ topics must be approved in advance (we’ll discuss this in class), and students are encouraged to explore different opinions and research about their topic. The annotated bibliography is a precursor assignment to the final paper.


For an example topic, consider corporal punishment (e.g., spanking). There is a great deal of research exploring whether it harms children to be spanked, and whether it should be considered a form of maltreatment. In writing a paper on this topic, students should explore that research, the arguments supporting the use of spanking, and other aspects (e.g., arguments based on tradition or religion) they might consider important in considering whether spanking is harmful or beneficial. Students should draw their own opinions and write a compelling conclusion section that summarizes what they’ve learned, illustrating the reasons for their opinions.


Annotated bibliography paper (10% of final grade)

Annotated bibliographies are compilations of brief summaries of articles or books. This assignment is meant to encourage you to do research for your final paper earlier in the semester, and to explore different resources that might be useful. For each resource you include, you want to provide a) a full citation in APA style and b) a brief (150-250 word) summary. Though you can use a variety of resources in your final paper (see below), for this assignment you are limited to peer reviewed articles or scholarly books or book chapters. If you are unsure if a source qualifies, contact the instructor (not the night before the assignment is due, please). Five sources are required for this assignment, listed in alphabetical order based on the first author. Please also utilize recent resources, preferably within the past 10 years, though important older works (such as things that have been cited hundreds of times) may also be included. You are also encouraged to include sources that span the arguments around your controversial topic. Do not plagiarize! We’ll discuss that more in class.


Your summary should do more than merely regurgitate what you’ve read – you should include a critical appraisal of the arguments or findings. Here are some links you might find helpful in constructing your annotated bibliography:


For APA citations, this website is usually the best:


Grading rubric:


What What I’m looking for Weight
Included sources Are also sources appropriate? Are they relatively recent, or are older sources justified? 20%
APA reference formatting Is the citation given correctly for each source? 20%
Summaries Do the summaries appear to accurately capture the content of each source? Are the sources and arguments critiqued with some thought? Are the summaries intelligible to an outsider? Are they the appropriate length? Are they free from plagiarism? 60%


Final paper guidelines (25% of final grade)


The final paper should be written in APA format (you are encouraged to use the template provided online) with a title page and references. The format and content of the paper is up to you, but here are some guidelines:

  1. It must be 7-10 (double spaced) pages, not including references and title page (in Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1” margins – don’t try to fudge that, please).
  2. It should follow this rough outline:
    1. Start with a good introduction that gives an overview of the paper and what you will discuss, including your conclusions (briefly). Some people write this section last.
    2. Include multiple subsections (use headers!) that focus on certain aspects of your topic or the research.
    3. Conclude with a compelling argument that takes a position about the controversy, deciding on your own point of view, based on the evidence you presented.
  3. Do not plagiarize! This can be difficult, especially because I strongly discourage the use of extensive quotes. Best advice: read the source, then set it aside and write down a summary of what you’ve read (you may want to practice this while preparing the annotated bibliography). Some people may choose to summarize aloud, recording what they say and writing it down later. Please do not include more than three quotes in the entire paper – this should be in your own words.
  4. Explore as many aspects of the topic as you can! As you read more, you’ll see people bringing up different issues to consider around your topic. Put each topic in a separate subsection to help keep things organized.
  5. Integrate a variety of sources. Students should include all the sources from their annotated bibliography, but you can also bring in articles from magazines or newspapers, books written for parents, etc. Please critically evaluate these sources, especially if they make controversial or extreme statements (e.g., please don’t cite Jenny McCarthy about vaccinations without acknowledging her complete lack of medical training).


Grading rubric:


What What I’m looking for Weight
Flow and organization Are the arguments clearly presented? Does that paper have a clear organization that makes it readily understandable? 20%
Presenting different sides Are different perspectives on the topic presented objectively? Are there more than two “sides” presented? Are they given equal weight? 40%
Student conclusions Is a final conclusion presented clearly? Does the student consider all the arguments and evidence coherently? Is the conclusion justified based on that evidence? 25%
APA formatting and presentation Does that paper follow APA guidelines? Is it reasonably free from typos and grammatical errors? 15%


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