Research Essay: Why Do We Garden?

The Task: Craft a thesis that explores and addresses the connections between the following questions:

(1) What is a garden (in other words—what makes a garden a garden, what defines it)?
(2) Why do we garden (what are we looking for in the art– the pastime, the pleasure, the challenge, the

satisfaction, the escape, the sanctuary– of gardening)?

Do Your Research

Keeping in mind your specific focus, research everything you can about

(A) Gardens (e.g. their history, practices, garden styles)
(B) Reasons why people garden (e.g. spiritual, practical, relaxation, challenges, etc.) (C) The specific direction you have chosen to research

Note: You are required to use William Fitzgerald’s “The Impermanence of Order,” Jim Nollan’s “The How-To Garden,” and various information and insights from Michael Pollan’s Second Nature.
Note: You must find an additional six sources. Two of those sources may come from Internet sites, but the other four must come from printed sources. However, if your source was originally a printed source but has since been stored electronically online, then you may use that source (for example, articles, essays or books found through an online database).

Note: The best approach for a research project is to gather more information than you need for the essay. Your goal is to find a substantial amount of research to draw from while writing your essay. Also keep in mind, that you will not necessarily find sources that specifically address these questions. You will need to process and think critically about the information you find and ask yourself how your research can help you address the questions of what a garden is and why we do it.

Note: As you work on your research, you don’t need to know exactly what you are going to write about, but you should have a general goal. Think of the research portion of this essay as an opportunity to let your experiences and observations help you figure out what you later want to write about. However, everything you gather and think about should be focused on answering the questions put forth in this prompt: “what a garden is” and “why we garden.”

Things That You Must Do/Remember (Check this List Before You Are Ready to Upload Your Final Draft)

1) Your essay must follow the requirements listed in this prompt and respond to the questions asked in the task (What is a Garden? / Why do we Garden?). If you go way off topic or do not address the questions, your essay will not be successful.

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  1. 2) Important: this is not an essay about your experiences visiting gardens and stores to gather information; rather, it is an essay that explains what a garden is and why we garden— nor is it a personal essay about why you like or don’t like gardening (or even what you, personally, think about gardening). To that end, you are not allowed to use “I” in the essay (or “you”).
  2. 3) As we will have discussed in class, your essay is not a dumping ground for quotations. Keep in mind our discussions about using research to meaningfully contribute to the discussion in your essay (use your sources to support points, to address ideas and possibilities, to provide valuable insights for answering these questions, etc.). Remember our class discussions about providing context for the sources that you use. Many students, over the years, have told me in their process letters that they struggled to find sources that agree with and/or support their ideas and points. This is not the correct approach to a research essay. You are supposed to learn from your research; in other words, your research should lead you to new insights and help you shape your responses to these questions.
  3. 4) You must write a minimum of eight full, complete pages and no more than twelve. Essays that do not reach the required minimum might not receive a passing grade.
  4. 5) You must include a formal, properly formatted works cited page (do not use your annotated bibliography). Make sure that you also follow all of the proper MLA formatting for in-text citations. If you have many MLA errors and / or no works cited page, I will have to reduce your grade, so make sure that you take the time to properly format your in-text citations / works cited page.


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