Vanport Speed Research Paper
In this inquiry-based assignment, you will explore an aspect of the Vanport story and present your findings in a short research paper. You will first develop a focused research question that will guide your investigation. To speed-up the research process, I will provide you with a research guide that contains various links to articles, books, and oral histories. Finally, you will write a short paper relaying what you discover.
This is a speed research assignment, because you will have just three weeks to complete the entire process. Since this is such a short time frame, you will not be expected to explore a topic in depth, but you should be able to come-up with a solid, original, defensible thesis that you can support with evidence from your research. You will have a research guide that includes a list of potential sources you can use for this project that can help you cut down on your research time. Your paper will relatively short between 6-8 paragraphs long, but it should be a focused and original work.
Step One: Choose a research topic and develop a question
You need to come-up with a topic that explores some aspect of the Vanport story. Your topic could focus on any part of the history of Vanport– its establishment, life there during or after the war, the flood, or its aftermath. If you are having trouble coming-up with a possible topic, think back to the documentary you watched and jot down the parts stuck with you. Why did those scenes resonate? Do they spark any additional questions?
Once you have a general topic, you will need to develop a focused research question that you will use to guide your investigation. In general, a good research question is:
• Answerable
• Allows you to explore a subject, not simply find a correct fact about it
• Has multiple answers
• Is not so broad that is becomes difficult to answer in a short paper, or so focused that you cannot find sources to answer it.
Since you have such a short amount of time to complete your research, your question will need to be narrow in scope.
Here’s an example of how you can turn a general topic into a solid research question. Imagine that you chose race relations in Vanport as your topic. You came-up with a research question that meets the basic criteria: How did the Vanport Flood impact race relations in Portland? This is a good research question, because it has multiple answers and allows for exploration of your topic. However, it would be really difficult to answer in such a short time frame. To fully answer this question, you would need to learn about race relations in Portland prior to the flood, the response to flood and how it impacted black and white Portlanders and Vanporters, and the civil rights struggle after the flood. You would also have to have some background in basic civil rights history in order to understand the context of the struggle in Portland. There’s not enough time to learn about each of those areas, so you might narrow their question to: How did white and black Portlanders’ efforts to provide relief to Vanport flood victims challenge existing racial stereotypes?
This revised question allows you to still explore the flood’s impact on the civil rights struggle in Portland, but you don’t have to do extensive historical research to fully understand the sources you are reading. This revised question can also be reasonably answered in a 6-8 paragraph paper. The original question would have required at least 8-10 pages of writing to answer it.
Here’s a few more examples of possible research questions that would work for this assignment:
• How should the city of Portland memorialize Vanport?
• How did the infrastructure and design of Vanport support working women?
• Why did the Housing Authority believe it was safe for residents to remain in Vanport?
During Week Three, you will meet with your learning community and brainstorm research questions. Your community will need to schedule a time to meet that week. You should all come prepared with a topic for your research. You will work together to brainstorm possible research questions for your topics. Here is an exercise you can (but don’t have to) use:
• Free-write for a few minutes about your topic. Why did you choose it? What do you already know about it? (You can do this step before you meet)
• Brainstorm a list of possible research questions. Do this for at least 10 minutes. Try to write as many questions as you can. Don’t revise as you write, just let the ideas flow. (This could also be done ahead of time)
• Share your research question list with members of your learning community. As you read one another’s lists, highlight the questions that you think are the most interesting and add any questions that come to mind as you read the list.
• When everyone has read and contributed, the author should review the question list and choose the question(s) that they find most interesting. In pairs or as a group, talk about which question you want to research and/or work to revise your research question so it meets the general criteria listed in this assignment.
Due Monday, October 19th:
Turn in your Vanport Speed Research paper topic, your working research question, and a list of three potential sources you can use from our library guide and one additional source you found on your own. If there are not three potential sources listed in our library guide, feel free to find them on your own.
Step Two: Researching your question
The trick to conducting effective research is to keep your search for information focused on answering your research question. For example, if you find a book about the Vanport Flood in the PSU Library and you are investigating the city’s evacuation plans during the flood, you will not need to read the entire book, you can just go directly to the information that is relevant to your topic using the index or the table of contents. Likewise, you can use a focused keyword search to locate articles in the library’s databases or on the web. However, research is not a linear process. If you are having trouble finding answers to your research question, you may need to go back and refine that question.
One of the joys of research is coming across new information that completely changes your perspective on a topic. Sometimes, you come across this type of information in a source that may not at first seem relevant to your topic. Reading information that isn’t directly relevant to your research question is still beneficial. It may help you understand the context of the situation, expose you to new perspectives or ideas, or lead you to new potential sources.
Since you have such a shortened time frame to get your research done, you’ll want to stay as focused and organized as possible. Keep your research question in front of you as you begin to go through your sources. Before you even start reading the sources in our research guide, take a few minutes to review your notes from the Vanport film and see what information is relevant to your question. This baseline information might already give you some insight into how you are going to answer your question and what your thesis might be.
As you start to read through your sources, write down any subheadings or themes that help answer your question as they arise. For example, if your question is: Why weren’t Vanport residents evacuated before the flood? and you learn that the Army Corps of Engineers assumed the levees would hold, you can make this into a subtopic. Record notes relevant to your subtopic on a separate sheet set aside for this subtopic. Each subtopic can then become a paragraph or two in your paper. So you are essentially creating an outline as you go.
Remember that research is a circular process. As you learn more about your topic, you may need to go back and revise your research question or your working thesis. Although, it may feel like you are taking a backwards step, revising your question or thesis will actually help you refine your thinking and ultimately, write a better paper. It will also keep your research more focused. If you aren’t finding enough information about your topic, you may need to broaden your question.
As you take notes, make sure you record the basic bibliographic information about your source (Title, Author, Publication date, and so on). Also avoid inadvertently plagiarizing a source by paraphrasing the information you read in your notes. If you want to record a direct quote from your source, make sure you indicate that it is a quote and record the page you obtained it from. Taking the time to put information in your words as you read will make it easier to write later on. In addition, paraphrasing and notetaking help you retain and absorb the information you read.
You will need to read at least five sources for this paper.
Step Three: Write a draft of your paper
If you’ve taken good, well-organized notes, the writing part should be easy. Your paper basically needs to have three parts—an introduction with a clear thesis, the body where you lay out and support your argument, and a conclusion. As you write your first draft, try to just let your words flow. Don’t revise as you write, you can always do this later, just try to get all of your information down at once. If you are missing some information, note this in that initial draft. You can always go back and fill that in later.
Once you have a full draft, now go back and revise. While you’ll want to correct any obvious mistakes, you shouldn’t agonize over your word choice at this point in the writing process. Instead, revise your paper for clarity and organization. Is your thesis clear? You started your research process off with a question. Your thesis should be a concise summary of the answer to that question. For example, if your research question was: How did the infrastructure and design of Vanport support working women?, your thesis might be: Vanport provided affordable and accessible services like child care and take-out meals in order to free women from the unpaid work they did in their homes, so they could fully participate in the war effort.
You’ll also want to make sure your argument makes sense. Do you have enough information to support it? Does each paragraph contain a clear idea? It’s okay to have one or two sections where you need to do more research. Writing helps you think. As you write, you may realize that you need to go back and do some additional research. Just make a note of this in your draft. While you don’t want to have entire chunks of the paper missing, it’s fine if you have a sentence or two where you want to add more.
Remember, you draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure it is reader-ready.
The draft of your Vanport Speed Research Paper should be finished by Wednesday, October 28th.
Your learning community will provide peer feedback on your paper drafts by Monday, November 2nd.You can organize your peer review however you like. You can exchange papers and feedback over email, read and talk over Zoom, or via any communication tool that works for you. You can provide feedback as a group or do so individually. However, each student should receive comments from at least two of their peers. When you provide feedback, you should focus on the content, the strength of the author’s argument, clarity, organization, and so on. Since this isn’t a polished draft, don’t spend a lot of time correcting spelling or grammar. If you notice a repeated error (like misuse of commas or capital letters), you may want to mention it, but try to focus on the structure and content of the paper.
Step Four: Revise your draft and finish your final paper
Revise your draft using the feedback you got from your classmates. You don’t have to follow every suggestion they gave you, but the peer review is designed to provide you with some insight for how a reader perceives your paper. If your classmates didn’t understand your argument, you should go back and revise it.
Once you have a solid revised draft of your paper, go back and polish it up by checking your spelling, punctuation, grammar and citations. Make sure you cite any fact, ideas, or quotes that are not your own. Please use MLA or APA citation format. In these formats, you use an in-text citation, which generally goes at the end of the sentence that contains the borrowed information. You will also need a Works Cited bibliography at the end of your paper. The Works Cited list should include all of the sources that you cited within your text. There is no required number of sources that you need to cite in your paper.
In addition to your Works Cited list, I’d also like you to include a Sources list. This list can follow your Works Cited list at the end of your paper. It should include full bibliographic references for any sources that you reviewed during your research, but did not cite within your paper. You were required to have reviewed at least 5 sources, which you may or may not end-up citing in your paper.
Your final paper must:
• Be about 6-8 paragraphs long
• Have a clear, original thesis that you developed based upon your own research
• Support that thesis with evidence from your sources
• Be focused and only make conclusions that can be supported by the evidence included in the piece
• Be proofread
• Include in-text citations in either MLA or APA style
• Include a Works Cited reference list AND a Sources list at the end
Your final Vanport Speed Research Paper is due by the end of the day on Wednesday, November 4th.


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