SS 150: Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean - Term Paper Guidelines


  1. As I've already mentioned, there are two important things that are the basis for writing a good research paper. First of all, choose a topic that you're interested in; don't choose a topic because you think I'll be interested in it. Secondly, try to choose a topic that's of manageable proportions; don't try to write your paper on a topic that's too broad or too complicated. The purpose of assigning a research paper is to give you the opportunity to learn more about something that you're interested in, as well as giving you the chance to get some experience in researching, organizing and presenting information. Also please remember that I’d like to see you make use of scholarly sources of information in your paper; in other words, please don’t use encyclopedias, National Geographics, tourist literature, etc as references. The grade that you get on this paper depends in part on the quality of your sources and on the amount of effort you put into your research.

  2. Before you actually sit down to write your paper, you should prepare an outline for yourself. You can use this outline as a way of organizing your ideas and your information. If necessary, you can change your outline as you go along. You should organize your paper using this outline as a guide. For example: let's assume that I'm writing a research paper titled "The Influence of the Rastafarians on the Development of Jamaican Reggae Music". My outline might look something like this:

    1. Introduction: state here what your topic is, why you think it's important, and what you're trying to show.
      1. Scope of the paper - what are you doing?
      2. Why do you think this topic is important.
      3. What kind of approach are you using.
    2. Brief history of the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica (it's a good idea to give the reader some background information early in your paper; don't assume that the reader necessarily knows anything about your topic – assume that you’re writing this paper for someone who knows absolutely nothing about your topic).
    3. The history of reggae music and other forms of popular music (for example, ska and rocksteady) in Jamaica. What were the major influences on the music?
    4. Reggae and the Rastafarians: this is the part of your paper that focuses on the actual topic you're writing about. Here I would discuss, using specific examples, how the beliefs and ideology of the Rastafarian movement influenced the development of reggae music. Try not to talk in vague generalities here - use specific examples to support your ideas.
    5. V Summary and Conclusions.
  3. Remember to begin your paper with an introduction of some kind; tell the reader what you're doing, why you think it's important and also something about how you're planning to go about it.

  4. Remember that when writing a research paper you have to substantiate what you're saying - don't just write down facts without telling the reader where you got the facts. Always label your own ideas and your opinions as your own. If you use someone else's ideas, don't try to pass them off as your own but give credit where credit is due. Taking ideas from someone else without giving them proper credit is called "plagiarism" - most colleges and most professors (including me) take a very dim view of it. Whatever you hand in must be your own work and not the work of anyone else. If you do try to get away with something like that, the chances are very good that you'll get caught. If you do get caught, the result will be a failing grade for the semester’ no excuses and no second chances. Don't even think about doing it. Make sure that you read the handout on plagiarism.

  5. Make sure that you end your paper with a summary and some sort of conclusion. Try to tell the reader what you've learned in doing your paper. You should also try to briefly (in just two or three paragraphs) relate your specific topic to some sort of larger issue.

  6. Try to be concise and try to stick to your topic. Remember that it's quality and not quantity of writing that counts here. You can get an "A" on an eight page paper and a "C" on a twenty page paper.

  7. References and Bibliographies: When your write a research paper, you have to tell the reader where you gout your information and ideas from. References have to appear throughout your paper whenever you cite a specific fact or whenever you borrow an idea from one of your sources. I will not accept a paper unless it has references done in the correct format. Here is a fairly simple way of referencing your sources that's used in the field of anthropology. Remember that the reason for using references in a research paper is so that the reader can see where you got your facts and ideas from. How do I know you're not making it all up?

    1. When you make a direct quote from or a reference to a book, magazine article or some other source of information, here is how you reference it: simply place in parentheses, immediately after the quote or reference, the following information: author's last name, date of publication for the book or the article, and the page number where you got the quote or the information.
    2. For example, let's say that I was quoting from page 7 of Leonard Barrett's book on the Rastafarians - it would look something like this: "Jamaica's economy is basically agricultural, employing over 40% of the island's labor force" (Barrett 1988: 7). That's all there is to it.
    3. At the end of your paper, you have to attach a separate sheet titled Bibliography (this page does not count as one of your 7-8 pages). On this page list, in alphabetical order by author's last name, all of the books articles and other sources of information that you used in preparing your paper. In your bibliography give the following information: author's full name (last name first), date of publication, title of the book or article (titles of books have to be underlined while titles of magazine or journal articles should be set off by quotation marks), the place of publication and the name of the publisher if its a book . If it's a magazine article, give the name of the magazine, the volume number, the issue number and the page numbers for the article.

      For example:

      Format for a book: Barrett, Leonard 1988. The Rastafarians: Sounds of Cultural Dissonance. Boston: Beacon Press.

      Format for an article from a magazine or journal: Koslofsky, Joanne 1981. "Going Foreign - Causes of Jamaican Migration". NACLA Report on the Americas (this is the name of the magazine and it's one of the best sources of information on the Caribbean and Latin America). Volume 15, #1, pp 2-25.

    4. If you have any trouble figuring out how to do this, please check with me. Some of the other handouts that I'm giving you go into more detail about the proper format for footnotes and bibliographies. If you’re going to be using on-line sources of information, there’s a handout on that too
  8. Your paper has to be typed and it has to be at least 7-8 pages long (not counting the title page or the bibliography). I will not accept a paper that’s 6 pages or less. Your paper can be longer (if you have something to say - please remember that it’s quality and not quantity which counts). That means at least 7-8 typed (on standard-sized paper), double-spaced pages with about a one inch margin on the top, bottom and sides of each page. Your first page should be a title page, with the title of your paper in the center of the page and your name and class in the lower right-hand corner; this title page does not count as one of your 7-8 pages (refer to sample title page). Please don't hand in a paper with a fancy or cute cover (no pictures of palm trees for example). Please be sure that you hand in a neat-looking paper with the pages numbered and stapled together. A paper that is not done in the proper format (title page, footnotes, bibliography, etc.) will be returned to you without a grade so please do it right the first time.

  9. You should make a copy of your paper just in case something happens to the original.

  10. As you do the research for the paper you might find it useful to keep your information on 3x5 index cards. This will make it much easer to keep track of what you've got.

  11. This paper will be due the week of May 4 (any day that week Monday through Thursday): no extensions, no excuses. If you hand in your paper on time you will get it back on the day that we’re scheduled to have our final exam. If you do not hand your paper in on time the grade on your paper will be reduced by one-half a grade. If it’s a week or more late, your paper will get a failing grade. The absolute last day for handing in papers is Thursday May 7,

  12. Try to keep your papers organized and coherent! I don't expect any masterpieces from you but I would like to see some indication that you made a serious effort to write a college-level research paper. Please remember that spelling and grammar do count so pay attention and read your paper over before you hand it in; since most if not all of you will be writing this paper on a computer, please be sure to use the spelling and grammar checker before you hand in your paper. Also remember that everything I've mentioned in these three pages (neatness, footnotes, bibliography, etc.) will all contribute to the grade you get for this paper. Please make sure that you read all of the handouts (read them two or three times if you have to) and please don't hesitate to talk to me if you're having any problems at all with your paper.


    This is all that you need for your title page; keep it this simple. Remember: no picture and no decorations of any kind on your title page.

    Title of your Paper (in the center of the page and underlined)


    In lower right hand corner of the page-------->> Class


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