White Paper (A Preview)

A White Paper is a work in progress. It’s a snapshot of where your research project stands at a particular moment. It’s also a useful repository for all your notes about the topic as your gather them.

As such, White Papers tend to be informal and of uneven quality. Instead of demonstrating a careful, organized, persuasive pattern of thinking, they show the chaos of research as it develops—chaos that dissipates like morning fog as your work proceeds to reveal a beautiful day. But murky at first.

If yours looks like mine (Why We Still Have Polio), it will be loosely organized into sections you will further develop with additional research and composition. For example:

1. Content Descriptions

  • The 2014 Syrian Polio Outbreak
  • The Resurgent Measles Threat
  • Thanks to the Anti-Vaxxers
  • Dangers of Measles
  • The How and Why of Polio
  • The Effectiveness of Vaccination
  • Counterintuitivity of Vaccination
  • Historic Eradication Efforts
  • The Eradicability of Polio
    • Impediments to Eradication
    • Single-Day Efforts
  • Counterintuitive Setbacks
  • The Nagging Autism Case


2. Working Hypothesis

Here you’ll detail in precise language an argument you believe could be supported by material you have already found or expect to find.

2a. Working Hypotheses 2, 3, 4 . . . .

To demonstrate that you haven’t hardened your position and are willing to consider alternate findings, declare a second hypothesis the research might support.

3. Topics for Smaller Papers

Since as part of the semester’s work, you’ll produce short arguments that stand on their own but contribute to your overall research, begin to identify what those papers might look like.

Definition/Classification Argument

Explain How a Term or Category is Understood or Misunderstood, Used or Misused, how Related things differ, or how Unrelated things are similar.

  • For example, I might need to explain the analogy between the eradication of smallpox and the eradication of polio in a Definition/Classification paper, demonstrating their similarity to advance the argument that if one was accomplished the other is likely.

Cause/Effect Argument

Explore a Causal Relationship Essential to your research

  • For example, I might need to demonstrate by research that when intravenous injections are required for vaccination, the compliance rate drops sharply, while the compliance for oral vaccination remains high. This would demonstrate that we need to use the cheaper but more dangerous oral vaccine if we ever hope to accomplish eradication.

Rebuttal Argument

Reveal a Counterargument to be flawed

  • For example, a stinging attack on the argument that personal freedom to opt out of vaccination trumps the public health necessity of virtually universal vaccination.

4. Current State of the Research Paper

Describe in a brief paragraph how you’re feeling so far about the progress you’ve made, how your opinions have changed (or solidified), and what you anticipate will be your eventual outcome.

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