Right Turn Habits at Intersections with Red-Light Cameras


Writing to Inform: Right Turn Habits at Intersections with Red-Light Cameras

ENC 1102: Writing and Rhetoric II

The objective for this first essay, the empirical research report, is to understand field research: how to conduct it and how to use it in writing. This first major writing project of the course asks you to write with the primary rhetorical purpose of informing while using personal experience obtained through primary research (i.e. observations, interviews, and surveys). You will learn to correctly and effectively incorporate primary research using APA formatting in your writing.

Your subject must be an observable natural or social phenomenon. It is up to you to decide why the thing you choose to write about is significant. Don’t be frightened by the concept of “phenomenon.”  For the purpose of this assignment, we will use the term to mean “an observable event or occurrence which may be investigated through first-hand research.” The phenomenon must be observable, local, and current, which means you can personally go to and see the phenomenon without the aid of a microscope or telescope, unrealistic long-distance traveling, or a time machine.

An issue such as pollution is too broad for this assignment, so think smaller. Often the most significant occurrences in nature and society are unassuming and go unnoticed by most people. In nature, it could be an invasive species in a local environment, local signs of global warming, or the effects of a nearby oil spill. In society, it can be a cultural activity, different habits such as sports or music, and hosts of other activities people engage in. Make sure you pick a topic that you will feel comfortable sharing with your peers.
Your purpose for this assignment is to inform your readers about your particular topic through your own first-hand observations, surveys, and interviews (primary research).
Your audience for this assignment is the uninformed and curious public. Your audience, however, is not in a “need-to-know” situation; they are merely unaware and inquisitive. You should work with their curiosity to inform them and broaden their view of your topic. With this in mind, your research should present new and surprising information. If you’re writing about a commonly unknown topic, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you decide to write about a well-known topic, your paper should include more recent or surprising information.

Keep in mind that this essay’s aim is to inform, not persuade. You are not arguing a local issue; you are simply surprising your readers with focused information. However, if you do encounter an arguable issue during your investigation, you should keep notes for further essays you’ll be writing, as you will be working with the same topic for the remainder of the term.

When developing your topic, ask yourself questions such as:

  • What new and interesting things about nature or society can I show my readers?
  • What interests me about this phenomenon?
  • What might others not know and possibly find interesting or surprising?
  • What common (and possibly incorrect) views do others hold about my topic?
  • What interesting or surprising claim might I make about my topic?
  • How much background information will my audience need?

Essay Format:

An empirical research report differs from other styles of informative writing in that it is divided into specific sections. The main ones include: Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, References, and Appendix.[1] These categories are clearly marked by the aforementioned headings:

  1. INTRODUCTION: Explain the phenomenon to be investigated. Why is this event or occurrence interesting and/or important?  What is your research question? What do you expect to find?  (i.e. What is your hypothesis?)
  1. METHOD:  Describe how your study or experiment was done. Here you will clearly document each step of your primary research. It is an important aspect of an empirical research report that your investigation can be replicated in order to be considered valid.
  1. RESULTS: Explain/summarize the results of your primary research (i.e. observations, interviews, surveys). Any charts or graphs you produce about your research may be included here if they are small. Long tables of data should be attached at the end in the appendix.
  1. DISCUSSION: Analyze your results and draw conclusions. Did anything surprise you? What are the possible causes and consequences of your findings?  Where could further research be done in the future? What were the flaws and limitations of your study?
  1. REFERENCES: Following APA guidelines, list any and all secondary sources used in the paper. For information on APA formatting, see A&B 585-91 and EW pp. 515-550. Sources must be in alphabetical order and include all necessary information for future researchers to locate them
  1. APPENDIX: This database includes all of your research materials, such as a record of your detailed observations, a sample survey, all interview transcripts, and/or large tables of data. Any other data you collected should also be attached here.

Your final draft should be 1000-1500 words. It should be typed, double-spaced, and use 12-point, Times New Roman font with one-inch margins. The essay should adhere to correct APA style. DO NOT use second person. The Writer’s Memo, Title page, References, and Appendix sections do not count toward the 1000-word minimum word count for this essay.


In this paper, your examination into your chosen topic must be taken from primary research. (Secondary research is not a requirement in this assignment.) You must conduct: (a) detailed observations, (b) at least two interviews, and (c) at least a one-page survey on a group of at least twenty people.


Banned Topics:

There are a number of topics I have banned because they have been overused in past student papers and/or do not yield new or surprising information for the audience. Therefore, DO NOT write your paper on the following topics:[2] lowering or keeping the current drinking age, marijuana, gay marriage, abortion, gun control, assisted suicide or euthanasia, texting and driving, religion, GE/organic food, green energy, elderly drivers, school uniforms, paying college football players, violent video games, technological effects, stem cell research, and cloning.


Summary of Grading Criteria:

A good response to this assignment will do all of the following:

  1. Write with the primary rhetorical purpose of informing;
  2. Respond to the needs of an uninformed and curious audience;
  3. Demonstrate engagement with a focused and meaningful research question;
  4. Demonstrate rhetorically-effective use of primary research (interviews, observations, and survey questionnaire(s);
  5. Cite primary sources correctly according to APA guidelines;
  6. Effectively incorporate research materials into the document;
  7. Produce a final draft that shows evidence of a thoughtful writing process, including invention, revision, and proof-reading;
  8. Use syntax, punctuation, and spelling effectively in service of rhetorical purpose.

Grading Criteria:

Purpose & Audience Awareness 20 points 20%
Genre Conventions/Structure 20 points 20%
Research 20 points 20%
Documentation 20 points 20%
Style 10 points 10%
Writing Process 10 points 10%
TOTAL: 100 points 100%
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