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ENG 122: Academic Writing II (Husic): Research Essay

Resources for Research Assignment & Annotated Bibliography.

Research Assignment

Research Essay: The Definition Argument

Music and Genre

One of the more difficult aspects of argumentation and persuasion is the agreement upon definitions of terms by all participants concerned in the debate. Take the matter of abortion, for example; while it is easy enough to look up a dictionary definition of “life,” proponents on both sides of the debate use varied definitions from different sources in order to propel their points of view. Their definition of “life,” in other words, affects how they view abortion. Or something a bit simpler: the question of whether or not golf is a sport. Some people wonder if it should be a part of the Olympics. In both of these cases, how we define terms results in significant consequences for stakeholders on the issue and can have lasting consequences for citizens as well as states and governments.

For the purposes of our music-themed class, our ambiguous terms will be musical genres. What is pop music? What is real hip-hop? What’s indie rock as opposed to alternative rock? When Taylor Swift tries to convince us that she is no longer a country singer, but a pop-star, what does she mean? How is she trying to change the conversation around her genre? When a band “sells-out,” are they simply moving genres?

Your Assignment:

Outline the parameters for your definition of a specific genre, and then convince us that a controversial artist or album fits (or doesn’t fit) within those parameters. You will have to consider the empirical, historical, and social history of this genre. How have previous definitions been used to press political and social agendas?  How will your definition provide new clarity to the matter? Why is it important to determine whether artist X is a musician of the Y genre? What larger implications may this categorization have?


  • Music: As you know, our definition of what constitutes “music” is broad.
  • Genre: This is precisely the term you need to define or redefine.

Minimum length for this essay: 4 pages (Think carefully about the implications of the word ‘minimum:’ you must hit the bottom of the fourth page).


  • Typed, stapled
  • 12 pt. font, Times New Roman
  • Double-spaced with 1-inch margins

Focus for Grading:

  • Does the essay have a clear claim that fits the definitional argument assignment?
  • How convincing is the support and discussion of criteria for the category (Y) of the definition?
  • How convincing is the support of the match of the item (X) to the criteria?
  • Has the author used relevant and credible sources to establish the topic, support the criteria, and/or establish the match, with a minimum of three sources?
  • Does the essay show careful editing and polishing of text for an academic  audience?
  • Does the draft use secondary sources effectively in MLA style?

Goals of Assignment:

  • Providing a careful, thorough, and considerate analysis of a definition based on empirical, historical, and cultural research.
  • Using a variety of argumentative strategies that appeal to the different audiences addressed in and affected by the definition.
  • Making and supporting a claim with sufficient evidence and audience analysis.
  • Integrating secondary source material into your own writing using appropriate documentation.