The Fact Paper

In this paper, you will describe a person, object, or event using only empirically verifiable facts. The objective of the paper is to invite your reader to see the person, object, or event in an unusual light while ensuring that your paper remains completely free of any evaluative language. You final draft should be 1000 words in length not including endnotes and bibliography.

Choose a person, object, or event that you find interesting and that you can readily research. After you choose a topic, begin to compile facts that allow you to show your topic in an unusual light. By “unusual” I mean in a way different from how most people would think about that person or object or event. Your essay should NOT be a report. You are not writing an encyclopedia entry. You are making an argument by presenting an artful, carefully-crafted perspective. If you think this is near impossible consider that journalists do it all the time.

Though you are being artful, you want in every case to use only empirically verifiable statements. At no point should you use language that discloses your opinions or use evaluative language of any kind. Your essay should only contain carefully collected and composed empirical statements that you have strategically organized.

1) Your opening paragraph should be a vivid, detailed description of your topic.

2) The introduction of your essay must include a preview of where you are headed. Your preview should give your reader a sense of what you will talk about and why. Indicate your topic and main points in the introduction. Remember: all statements must be empirically verifiable.

3) The body of your paper should deliver on the promises made in your preview. For instance, if you promise in your introduction that the first section of your paper will discuss deaths that have occurred on Disneyland rides, then the first section of your paper should provide information about the number of deaths that have occurred on Disneyland rides. Do not suddenly start talking about the history of amusement parks.

To make the body of your essay interesting, you want to think about how you present information. Where do you place each sentence? Can you put two sentences together that suggest things that you cannot come right out and say? When do you introduce certain details? Which details do you leave out? We will talk in class about different kinds of empirically verifiable statements. The body of your essay should be a combination of different kinds of statements (statements with granular details, statements with aggregated data, and/or autobiographical). Think, too, about how you compose each sentence. Is it better to be detailed, or vague? Is it good to have a combination of specific and general information? Consider how best to get your reader to see the topic from a certain angle. It is a matter of selection, arrangement, and presentation.

4) Your essay should feature a conclusion that briefly summarizes the course of the paper. Without drawing conclusions or stating your opinion, end the paper in such a way that your reader will know they are taking away an unusual perspective. You cannot, of course, say as much. So you have to show your reader that somehow.

5) Any outside information or data you include in your essay should be referenced. Include a complete works cited page formatted correctly.

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