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Steffen - Junior Theme Research: Brainstorm and Research

Research and Brainstorm

AP Comp/American Literature A                       Brainstorm (on back) Due: Tuesday, 4/18

Junior Theme: Research Brainstorm & Works Cited Notes

Goals for Research in the Lab and Over the Long Weekend:

1. Get into your topic.   Explore primary sources, first and foremost.  Listen to music.  Watch films, TV shows, videos or ads.  Find first-hand interview with artists or creators of media as they discuss what they do and why they do it.

You cannot analyze a genre of culture you do not know.  So familiarize and re-familiarize yourself with the actual stuff.

I will open up YouTube to you this week, but much of this work needs to happen outside of class.  Time in the library is best used when you are accessing resources you can only find there.

As you explore the primary sources, keep note of what specific artists and what specific songs, films, shows, etc, intrigue you.  One artists – and a few of their works – will ultimately become the focus on the body of your paper – your primary example backing up your thesis.


2. Get background and perspective on your topic.  Begin exploring secondary sources.  Start with general reference sources – like encyclopedias – that can provide you will an overview of your genre and time period.  Then begin searching online databases as you desire other, more specific information.

If you find a secondary source that might be useful as you develop your argument, keep track of it by completing a source card or copying the title page.  You might also copy it, actively reading it and taking notes (more on note-taking later).  Keep copies – or references to – any of these sources in your group’s Project Folder.


3. Develop a focus.  By the end of class on Monday (we will be in the lab that day), your group will need to hand in a typed focus question along with a paragraph explaining your approach to your continued research and what artists might become the focus on your primary analysis.

As you explore primary and secondary sources, begin to narrow your focus.  Remember, you are going to end up discussing how your genre reflected and/or rebelled against dominant ideologies of its time.  So, what ideologies do you see clashing or melding with the music, the films, etc?  Again, keep track of those sources that do an especially good job of revealing the social and political importance of your genre.

If you are confused about where to start, consider finding the answers to the questions on the back ….

What is your genre of pop culture – and what is a good basic definition or description of it?


What time period are you focusing on – and why is that time period an important one for your genre?


Who are the major artists/works of your genre and time period?


Did the works from your genre/time period a completely new type of attitude or style?  If so, how did it break with the past attitudes and style?  If you are researching a change within your genre over time, how and why did the genre change?


These last two questions might require some educated guesses at this point – or feel free to ask us:
During the time period, what were the dominant ideologies in America?  What were the significant historical events?  


How did the genre of culture reflect or rebel against the ideologies or the events?




Junior Theme Research Essay Check-List


Assignment                             Due Date        Points


1. Specific focus question with thesis + focus artist    4/11            _______ 25


2. Preliminary Works Consulted                4/21            _______ 25


3. Note Check #1 (15 note cards or 5 pages)        4/21            _______ 25


4. Introductory Paragraph                    4/24            _______ 25


5. Note Check #2 (15 more cards or 5 more pages)    4/27            _______ 50


6. Topic Outline                        4/28            _______ 50


7. Sentence Outline                        5/1            _______ 50


8. First Draft (Typed – Complete – with Works Cited)    5/16            _______ 100


9. Final Draft (Typed – Complete – with Works Cited)    5/23            _______ 100


10. Final Check of Documentation/Citations        5/23            _______ 75


Total                                            _______ 525


If you are not sure what an assignment requires, ask before the due date!


Work ahead.


Plan to meet each step on time to receive full credit for the assigned objective.


Note-Cards/Notes Guidelines

There are two ways to take notes for this project.  First, you can write free-hand notes and ideas that you are considering as ideas to include in your project.  Further, You will need to take notes about each source that you have read or are considering using in your final essay.  Let’s take a look:

You can either write 10-pages (typed) or 30 notecards.

Note Check #1 (5 pages or 15 Notecards): Friday, April 21

Note Check #2 (5 more pages or 15 more Notecards): Thursday, April 28

Example Notecard #1 (5-10 sentences)--Source-Driven

Source 1:

  1. Brief Description of the Source:

  2. Type of Source: (quotation, video clip, lyrics, interview…)

  3. How does this source support your thesis?


Example Notecard #2 (5-10 sentences)--Idea-Driven

Common Theme/Synthesis Category: Police Brutality & Violent Government Suppression of Civilian Protests

I’ve read through four or five sources (listed below) that all make specific mention of the connection between police brutality and two major issues in this country that connect to my topic--the suppression of violent protests (specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement) and the treatment of prisoners in this country & the disproportionate amount of black males that are incarcerated.  This issue with mass incarceration and the mistreatment of young black men in this country (currently) is especially apparent in the Netflix documentary film 13th [perhaps write some specific images or quotations from the film], but it is also brought to light in Lupe Fiasco’s music video, “The Words I Never Said” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”  Further, it is compelling that this is an issue that was raised in the Vietnam War Protest song, “Ohio,” written by Neil Young in the 1960’s.  This shows that this is an issue that has been prevalent for many years. I also want to find a way to connect this concept to the conversations that we’ve had in class before, during, and after reading Frederick Douglass about the residual effects of slavery through overt operations like the Jim Crow laws in the south and other forms of covert racism in the North.  The documentary film, Many Rivers to Cross, which was made by PBS and narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr. will figure prominently into my analysis of this issue and the timeline of racism in the US from the American Revolution until now (2017).