Full assignment details are posted to the Course Documents area of Blackboard.
You have considerable latitude to develop your own topic. That means you can research any aspect of rap music that you find worthwhile—its history, its aesthetic features, its themes, its regional styles, whatever. You are also free to consider rap in its broader social context, looking at its intersection with politics, religion, literature, other forms of popular culture (or anything else I’ve missed). Whatever your topic, you must narrow your focus to something that can be covered thoroughly in the space allowed for your essay. Your grade will, in large part, depend on how insightfully and creatively you are able to use your research to make an original argument; it will also depend on the extent to which your essay offers the kind of close reading/analysis we’ve been practicing all semester.
For example, let’s say you decide to research prison culture and its impact on rap music. Your essay would, of course, present relevant statistics, etc., but your ultimate goal would be tie this research into the music itself—by looking at lyrics, music videos, samples, or some combination of these. This is where the quality of your analysis becomes significant. It would not be sufficient to merely point out various songs that deal with prison life. Instead, you must have an overarching theme or argument in mind. Perhaps you’ve found (on your own or through research) that rap music has approached prison culture in different ways over its 30-year history, or perhaps you recognize a common way that imprisonment reverberates through a variety of songs written by a single artist. Try to provide an argument that’s both creative and original—and that demonstrates your ability to read critically.
Regardless of your topic, as you are developing your essay, ask yourself if what you’re going to write is purely setting forth facts from your research. If so, that’s a problem. Your goal is to use your research and analysis to offer an original and intelligent insight into rap music.
Format: Unlike your previous essays, this one will be published here on this blog, and part of your grade will be based on the suitability of your topic for the WordPress medium. The blog medium offers significant flexibility, including the ability to add hyperlinks, graphics, video, and audio clips. However, that means you must think about the multimedia implications of your discussion; a topic that might make for a good paper-based essay may not translate well to WordPress. While I am most interested in content, I will also be looking for creative application of WordPress features. I will also be grading the final execution—broken links, misaligned text, or other technical flaws will count against you, so give yourself ample time to post your final essay.
Note: Do not attempt to type your essay into WordPress directly. Write the text in MS Word or some other word processing program first and then transfer the text to WordPress when you’re ready.
Content: This should be between 2500-3000 words. It should have an engaging introduction with thesis statement, body paragraphs that clearly support the thesis, and a conclusion. It should make use of a wide range of outside research, but remember that your outside sources should support your overarching argument, not replace it. They should also be integrated smoothly into your prose, as should embedded graphics, etc.
Citations: Any source that can be hyperlinked should be, and hyperlinks will replace the need for an in-text citation. Any source that cannot be hyperlinked effectively (e.g., a non-electronic book) should be cited with an MLA in-text citation. Every source that is cited (either through hyperlink or in-text citation) must be included in a Works Cited list at the bottom of the essay. Follow MLA format.
Note: For embedded content (videos, graphics, audio clips) please hyperlink to the original source or provide a caption indicating where you got the material (a URL at minimum). Also, if you embed an entire video but reference only a portion of it, please include a caption directing your reader to the minute and second where the relevant portion begins.
As this is a research-driven essay, you should include a significant number of outside sources according to the following criteria:
- There should be at least 12 sources in total. You may find yourself including far more than that, which is fine.
- At least five of your sources must be from books with a legitimate publisher (nothing self-published) or peer-reviewed journals.
- Rap songs or music videos must be cited (and hyperlinked whenever possible). They do not count toward the 12-source minimum. Embedded graphics do not count either.
Obviously, any time you quote one of your sources directly, you should use quotation marks. Hyperlinks or in-text citations do not relieve you of the obligation to alert your reader to direct quotations.
The final version must be posted to WordPress by December 4 at midnight. Technical problems will not exempt you from this deadline, so plan ahead.