What is a documented essay?
First and foremost, a documented essay is an essay similar to those we have done–an argument or exploration in which a writer develops a thesis and substantiates or analyzes this argument through to the end.  The process of writing a documented essay is to begin with a question or idea that you want to explore because it has meaning for you, and it is something that you already know something about. Therefore, a good question would not be, “What is the most humane way to enact the death penalty?”  Most students don’t have any connection to this topic and most students know little specific information about it. Sure, it’s an interesting topic, but such a broad topic is difficult to write about well in the short amount of time that we have.

In all your essays you have striven to explore or demonstrate your main thesis or ARGUMENT by giving examples.  To date, most of your examples have been from your own experiences and observations.  That’s great and useful for many documented essays as well.  In addition, you begun to use outside research.  We will continue to expand our notion of “external sources,” including the research and opinions that are available to us through newspapers, magazines, journals, books, the Internet, government documents, pamphlets, music recordings, videos, and perhaps even the writing of your peers.


What’s the Difference between a Traditional Research Paper and a Documented Essay?

This paper is called a documented essay instead of a research paper because I do not want to read reports.  There are going to be times in college when you will be asked to write research papers that read like reports, but this is not one of those times.  In other words, I do not want you to write a paper discussing all the reasons why marijuana should be legalized, or why people should vote for candidate X; why guns should/should not be banned; why abortion should/should not be legal; etc.  I want you to continue to be the smart, reflective, analyzing and questioning writers that you have grown into in the last essays you have written.



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