Paper 1 Requirements

Essay #1: An Analysis of Popular Culture

Due: 15 September  


Your first paper should be a 3-5 page paper, formatted according to MLA guidelines, that analyzes some piece of popular culture. This is a formal, academic essay, so it should include no 1st person ("I", "us" "we") or 2nd person ("you") in it, unless a short part of it includes a personal example. That example, however, should be a minor part of the essay and be no more than one paragraph at most. Your first paragraph should include introductory material on the topic itself, narrowing itself down to your thesis (the specific focus of your topic), which is the last sentence of the first paragraph and is not a question.

You must use at least one outside source for the paper, preferably one that is authoritative to an academically oriented audience (since this is an essay for a college class). This can include direct quotes, summaries, or paraphrases. Remember that using a source requires a Works Cited page. Also keep in mind that Wikipedia is never an acceptable source for an academic essay. Since anyone can edit the articles on it, there is no way to tell if the information is authoritative. Having said that, looking up your topic on Wikipedia can be quite helpful, and many times the articles have sources cited on Wikipedia for the information, which can help you find sources for your essay. Looking up those sources and then citing the sources directly is perfectly acceptable as long as the source is authoritative.

It is helpful to narrow the topic so that it can be covered in a short essay. For example, writing an essay on Homeschooling is far too broad a topic. There are volumes of books on this topic. However, narrowing it to Why Certain Students Do Better When Homeschooled is much better. Narrowing it even further to one or two categories of students who do better when homeschooled has an even better focus and can be comfortably covered in a short 3-5 page essay. Another example is Eating Disorders: a hugely broad topic for such a short essay. Even narrowing it to one eating disorder is too broad. Again, there are entire books on various kinds of eating disorders. But if you narrow it to an analytical essay (your topic should always answer a How or Why question) on Why Anorexia Is On The Rise In 21st Century America, or How Anorexia in Teenagers Should Be Treated, then you have a topic that works for a shorter essay.

So, once you have decided on a topic for Essay 1, you then need to figure out how to narrow it so that you can cover it in a short essay.



So far, in this course, you’ve read about topics such as food, the world of employment in America, and the idea of celebrity and narcissism. For this paper you will want to spend some time thinking about a topic in popular culture that interests you. While the example essay is a literary analysis, that is but one kind of analytical essay and not one any of you should feel you need to do. Chose a topic that interests you, if possible.

A great place to begin looking for ideas is Wikipedia’s category page, “Topics in Popular Culture.'   Clicking on the blue triangles next to each entry will give you other sub-categories that may be of interest.  Topics that are religious or ethical in nature are NOT allowed. Religious and/or ethical arguments are a special category of academic writing that will be covered in an upper division philosophy course.

If you are having trouble deciding on a topic, please contact your instructor or the UAF Writing Center. “I couldn’t think of a good topic' is in no way, shape, or form a viable excuse for a late or missing assignment.



An A+ paper will display the following qualities:

  • 3-5 properly formatted pages, plus a Works Cited page
  • Nearly perfect grammar and spelling
  • Analysis that provides astute observations of culture and promotes your individual critical thinking on the topic (analytical is the key - this should not read like a journal entry and use of first person should be minimal) and includes examples of your ideas
  • A clear thesis statement that is placed at the end of the first paragraph with organized paragraphs that support that thesis
  • Sources that are authoritative (NOT Wikipedia)


*Once you’ve turned your paper in, your instructor will grade your draft, and advise you on changes that need to be made. Should you choose to revise, your instructor will replace your first grade with the revised grade. Revision Due: September 29.

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