280: Research Paper Version 1 (RPv1)

Preparing Your Research Paper

The following instructions must be followed faithfully to receive full credit for your research paper:

Nature of the research paper: Your research paper must, as its name implies, be based on your own library research on the research question you have chosen. It must go much deeper into this question than we have gone or will go in the course lecture-discussions (for guidance on what we will cover during the remainder of the course, see the Slides page from last year). It must rely on your library research and not on any of the materials on the course slides or in this semester's assigned readings (Two or less references from the assigned readings is allowed, however).

Audience: In writing your essay, assume that your audience is a student in Physics 280 who is familiar with the material that has been presented in the lecture-discussions and the material in the assigned readings. You do not need to define terms that have been defined in previous essays or provide citations for these terms. You must define other terms and provide citations for these definitions, but you do not need to place any standard definitions in quotes.

Originality: Most of the text in your research paper must be your own words written specifically for this assignment. Using text you have prepared for a previous or current writing assignment in this or any other course is not permissible, even if the text is placed in quotation marks or paraphrased and properly cited, for three reasons. First, Physics/Global Studies 280 is a writing course and the research paper is supposed to be an exercise in original writing. Second, students are not authorities on any of the relevant subjects and therefore are not appropriate primary or secondary sources for the research paper. Third, doing so is a violation of Article 1, Part 4 of the University of Illinois Student Code.

Technology-policy balance: As explained on the research paper proposal Details page, your research paper should address a question that involves both technology and policy issues in an important way. The balance need not be 50%-50%, but both types of issues must be important and discussed. When addressing some questions, it may be natural to discuss the technological and policy issues separately, with one or more sections devoted to each. For other questions, it may be more natural to interweave the discussion of technology and policy. Follow whichever approach works best for your research question.

Cover page: Your research paper must have a cover page preceding the body of the paper. The cover page should not be numbered. It must include the following three elements:

  • A header block with all the usual required information in the required format plus the name of the TA who will be grading your research paper. Your research paper will be graded by the same TA who graded your research paper proposal, unless some other grading arrangement has been explicitly made.
  • A short, descriptive title. The title of your research paper should be more precise than the topic that was listed as the title of your research paper proposal, but it should be brief.
  • A half-page (no longer) abstract that describes the question addressed in your paper and summarizes your conclusions and recommendations.

Definition of the body: The body of your research paper is defined as all the pages in the paper except the cover page, the references page, and any pages at the end of your paper used to display figures or tables.

Length: The body of your research paper must be 5 or 6 pages long. If it is less than 5 pages or more than 6 pages long when printed, your score will be substantially reduced from what it would have been had your body been the specified length.

Page numbering: All pages in the body must be numbered. The first page of the body should be page 1.

Sections: You should divide the body of your paper into several sections, using boldface headings. Use as many sections as you need, but note that dividing the body into more than five sections is probably excessive for a six-page paper. Avoid sections that are only one or two paragraphs in length.

Introduction: The first section in the body of your paper should be an introduction to the paper. It should begin at the top of the first page following the cover page, which should be numbered page 1. The introduction should not be longer than 1.5 pages. Its purpose is to interest and engage the reader. You may provide context (e.g., Iran has just tested a nuclear weapon) or spell out your approach to the research question you are addressing. Do not list the sections in your paper or summarize your conclusions or recommendations in the introduction; this paper is too short for that to be appropriate.

Conclusions and Recommendations: The final section of the body must present your conclusions and recommend some policy or action. It should not introduce any new facts or arguments and therefore should not need to include any citations. Confine your conclusions to single paragraph, i.e., do not turn this section into a summary section! You must make some definite recommendations in this section. Some explanation of your recommendations is appropriate, but do not make this section the longest section in your paper! Use active voice.

References: Place all your references in a separate references section. The references section is not a bibliography; every reference must be cited in the body of your paper.

  • Begin your references section at the top of a new page immediately following your Conclusions and Recommendations section. Any pages with figures or tables must follow the references section.
  • The references section must contain a numbered list of the works you have cited in the body of your paper. These numbers should correspond to the numbered citations enclosed in square brackets in your paper (see below for more information about citations).
  • You must have at least 6 but no more than 10 references, and your references section must be no longer than a single page. If you have less than 6 or more than 10 references or your references section is longer than a single page, your research paper score will be substantially reduced from what it would have been had you followed these instructions.
  • Unlike your previous Required Essays, your research paper must not be based on Physics/Global Studies 280 lecture-discussion slides. You may use no more than two of the assigned readings. Thus, no course slides and no more than two assigned readings should appear in your numbered reference list.
  • Your reference list must include at least one relevant book, chapter from a book, or review paper.
  • You are strongly encouraged to read and cite articles in professional and scholarly journals, such as Arms Control Today, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Foreign Affairs, and International Security.
  • You may use the online documents posted on the course Documents page and documents posted on the web sites of the U.S. government and the nongovernmental organizations listed on the Documents page. You may not use any other online resources without express written permission from one of the senior instructors.
  • For every online reference included in your list of references, you must include the complete URL and the date and time you last accessed that URL.
  • You are free to use any standard style (e.g., APA, MLA, etc.) to present the information in your numbered reference list, but you must be consistent. For books, list the title, author(s), publisher, and the year. For journals and magazines, list the journal or magazine title, the month or year, the volume number if available, the author(s), and the pages on which the article appears. If no author is given, indicate this by placing an "em" (long) dash "—" where the author would be listed.
  • Use newspapers as references only for current events (events within the last six months or so) and sparingly, if at all (see the caution above against choosing a topic where the facts may change substantially during the semester). If you must cite a newspaper, make sure it is a high-quality paper, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, or The Miami Herald.
  • If you include a newspaper article as a reference, list the newspaper's name, the title of the article, the author(s), and the month, day, and year of the issue in the references section.
  • For stand-alone documents, list the title, author(s), date (in as complete a from as possible), and the organization that produced the document.
  • Titles of books, journals, and magazines and the names of newspapers should be italicized. The title of an article taken from a journal, magazine, newspaper, or stand-alone document should be put in quotes.

Supporting citations: Just as in your previous required essays, all statements or numbers that are not common knowledge should be supported by a citation. Every citation must point to a reference in the references section.

In deciding what is common knowledge, consider what is known by a typical University of Illinois undergraduate who has not previously taken and is not currently taking Physics/Global Studies 280. All other statements must be supported by citations of works in your list of references (for details, see Article 1, Part 4 of the Student Code). If in doubt, include a citation.

If you wish to cite a book to support a fact, argument, or quotation, the citation must include the number or numbers of the specific page(s) on which the fact, argument, or quotation appears. For example, suppose that you wish to cite a statement on page 37 of the book Teller's War, by William Broad. This statement could be supported in the text by the citation [1, p. 37] and in the references section by the entry

[1] William Broad, Teller's War (Touchstone Books, 1993)

Footnotes and endnotes: Do not use footnotes (consecutively numbered textual comments placed at the bottom of the page to which they refer) or endnotes (consecutively numbered textual comments placed at the end of the paper). If you wish to include information that is parenthetical, simply place it in parenthesis in the text.

Figures and Tables: You may include up to two (but no more than two) figures or tables in your paper, unless you have explicit permission from the TA who will be grading your research paper, and then only if they are essential for understanding the text. Be sure to refer to any figures or tables in the body of your paper (e.g., "The decrease in weapons is shown graphically in Figure 1.")

If you have figures or tables in your paper, they must occupy no more than two pages and be placed at the very end of your paper, after your references page.

Each figure must be numbered and have an explanatory caption and each table must be numbered and have a title and a brief note explaining what is listed in the table. If any figures or tables are taken from another source, that source must be properly cited.

Formatting: For information on formatting your research paper, see the Student Handbook section Formatting Your Writing Assignments.

Summary of Research Paper Page Count

ItemNumber of Pages
Cover page
5 or 6
Figures and tables 0 to 2
Total 7 to 10

Bindings: There are various types of binders that provide a "professional" look to documents, but they are very inconvenient for grading. Do not use them. Use a single staple in the upper left-hand corner.

Submission: For information on submitting your research paper, see the Student Handbook section Submitting Your Writing Assignments.

Final Suggestions

  • Remember that quantity does not equal quality. Think of your research paper as a jewel: small but perfect.
  • You do not have space to recount all the results of your reading and research. The extent of your research and the depth of your understanding will show in your overall perspective and the quality of your thinking and explication.
  • You can carefully revise a paper this short several times, and you should.
  • You should proofread the final version of your paper very carefully. There should be no spelling or punctuation errors. Do not rely on electronic spelling or grammar checkers.
  • In preparing your RPv1, follow the suggestions provided by the course staff in response to your RPP.
  • Be sure to submit properly the electronic copy of your RPv1 when you submit your paper copy. See the Student Handbook for detailed instructions.
  • The electronic and paper copies of RPv1 are both due by the deadline!