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American Sign Language University:  Research Paper Instructions

How to write an ASL research paper that gets an "A" grade:

Checklist:  "Is my paper ready to submit?"

  Is my topic an ASL or Deaf Culture topic?
(Please do NOT submit a paper on "Fixing Deaf People Via Cochlear Implants" or a paper on famous people who are physically "deaf" but never had anything to do with American Sign Language or the Deaf community.)  Read that again folks: I'm asking you to NOT do Cochlear Implants as a topic.*

Did I do a research paper rather than a “book report?”  (Research papers utilize multiple, credible references, not just one book.)

  Did I document where I got my information?  Did I cite at least 3 enduring, traceable sources of information in my references? (Blogs don't count.  Find REAL books or journal articles either online or hard copy with authors and publication dates, etc. that can be traced.)

Even if I have changed "every word" in the sentence-- if I've borrowed someone else's idea--did I provide a reference?

Did I use parenthetical expressions (citations) at the end of ideas that I've gotten from other people? Do these citations correspond to full references at the end of the paper?  Citations in the body of my paper use an opening parenthesis, author's last name, comma, year of publication and a closing parenthesis.  For example (Vicars, 2001).

  Is my paper 500 words or more?

At the end of my research paper have I provided a list of references that include the author's last name and first initial, the publication date, the name of the article, book, or journal, the publisher and the place of publication?

If I have quoted directly out of a book or article did I make sure to cite the exact page number in my reference entry at the end of my research paper?

Any time I used another author’s ideas word for word--did I put those words in quote marks?
  Did I limit the length of direct quotes from other sources in my paper?

  Have I
used online references only if I've been able to ascertain the actual author's name, date of publication, title of the document, and name of the publisher? Have I provided at least three references that are relatively enduring? (That can be easily located later by readers of my paper.)

  Have I spell checked and grammar checked my paper?

  Have I asked a friend or colleague to read my paper and give me feedback?

  Do I know when this
paper is due? Am I submitting it on time?

Did I submit my paper in electronic format to the right email address prior to the due date? Did I cc myself and a local proctor so as to have a witness that I turned it in on time (in case of technical difficulties or dropped emails)?

  I know that this paper might be posted / published by Lifeprint and I give them permission.

Tips:   If writing about Deaf and hard of hearing people it is okay and your are even encouraged to use the full phrase "Deaf and hard of hearing people" at least once during your paper or article near the beginning -- but afterward for efficiency sake just use the term "deaf." After you've used the full phrase you can reduce redundancy by realizing you do not need to add the "hard of hearing" phrase each time. You can instead just use the word "deaf." If referring to culturally Deaf people it is recommended that you capitalize the word Deaf, (even though capitalization of "Deaf" is not yet standard in the mainstream media). Reduce and to the maximum extent eliminate the use of the phrase "hearing impaired." (Most culturally Deaf people shun that phrase.  If directly quoting a source then yes you need to use the words that the source used. But if writing your own words then you should use the terminology preferred by the Deaf community.)

Student Research Paper Rubric:


Needs improvement



500 words or more

Fewer than 500 words.

 500 words that for the most part make sense and sort of flow well.

500 or more words that make sense and flow well.

3 or more citations in the body of the article.

No mention in your article of where you got your ideas from.

Less than 3 citations included or incorrect format.

3 or more citations, in correct format.

3 or more references at the bottom that go with the citations.

No reference list at the bottom of your article telling people how to find the material from which you got your ideas.

Less than 3 references included, incorrect format,  or can't backtrack to the actual information.

3 or more complete and traceable references to credible sources.


Instructions for how to write a paper that gets you an "F" for the course:

1.  Browse the internet and cut and paste until you have 500 words worth of plagiarized information. 
2.  Change a word here and  there. Rearrange the information a bit so it looks like you are writing it.
3.  Format it really nice.
4.  Put your name on it and send it in. 
Note: the way to avoid plagiarization is to document your sources and give credit (via citing) where it is due.

Instructions on how to write a "D-" paper that could drag your grade way down:

1. Pick an ASL topic that looks easy.
2. Get a few lame references from some blog off the net that are hard to trace.
3. Write 500 words the night before it is due.

Acceptable references at ASL University:

In the body of your document just use the last name of the author and the year, for example, (Vicars, 2001). Then at the end of your document you put the word "references"  followed by a list of the books and articles which influenced your writing. 

If reference is a book:
Author's last name, first initial. (year). Title of book--underline it. Place of publication: Name of publisher. 

Vicars, W. (1998). Sign Me Up! Salt Lake City, Utah: Lifeprint Institute.

If reference is a Journal:
Author's last name, first name. (year). Title of journal article only capitalize the first letter. Name of journal underline it. Volume number, starting page number-ending page number.

Below is a "made up" example, but make sure to use REAL journals in your paper:

Smith, John. (1999). Teaching ASL online. Journal of ASL. 7, 139-156.

If you find an online source that specifies the actual author's name, date of publication, title of the document, and name of the publisher--(good luck)--I'll accept the reference.  Note, this must be from an original source document on the web, do not quote someone else's research paper.

If reference is a web page:
Author's last name, first name. (Year, Mo. day). Title of the article or web page goes here, underline it and only capitalize the first letter and words that are always capitalized.  Title of the journal, general website, or book goes here. Name of the publisher or the sponsoring organization goes here. Retrieved day, Mo. Year: <full web address>.

Vicars, William. (2001, Jan. 4). Nonlinguistic communication. Lifeprint Library. ASL University. Retrieved 12, Feb. 2001: <>.

Hawk, Lori. (2007, Aug. 22). Hearts and Hands: ASL Poetry. Lifeprint Library. ASL University. Retrieved 06, Sept. 2007:


Below is a list of topics you might want to consider using, or come up with one of your own:

ASL as a World Language (The worldwide spread of ASL)
National Center for Law and the Deaf
American Society for Deaf Children
Artistic Signing
Countries, States, and Cities
Deaf Smith
Drug usage and Deaf people
Telecommunication Relay Services
Video Phones and the Deaf
Facial Expression and Non-Manual Cues
Formal vs. Informal Signing
Furniture Vocabulary
Gender and ASL
Historical Change and ASL
Iconicity of Signs
Idioms (ASL)
Incorporation of Intensity
Incorporation of Time
Indexing on the Non-Dominant Hand
Inflections: Regularity and Duration
Interpreters in the Educational Setting
Juncture Markers
Kinds of Sentences
Law and the Deaf
Laurent Clerc
Loan Signs
Mental Illness and the Deaf
Miss Deaf America Pageant
Name Signs
National Captioning Institute
National Fraternal Society of the Deaf
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
National Theater for the Deaf
Non-Manual Cues in Expressing Time
Non-manual Cues
Noun-Verb Pairs
Ordinal Numbers
Passive Voice in ASL
Person Marker
Role Taking
Samuel Heinicke
Simultaneous Communication using ASL and Spoken English (Is it effective?)
Speechreading: "Why it isn't enough."
Numbering in ASL
Technology and the Deaf
Temporal Adverbs in American Sign Language
Time Line
Total Communication
Technology and the Deaf


ASLU Students:
Most typical ASL topics have been "well researched" and thus you should be able to find some decent references that include the author, date, and publisher. Strive to use authoritative sources, otherwise you will likely be using inaccurate secondhand information.

Here are some locations I've found for you that might be of use in finding good articles:
Journal Search:
Electronic Journal Search:
Magazine Article Search Tool:

Plus, I recommend you locate an APA style guide" to help you format your paper
APA-Style Guide (just google "APA style guide" and you will find quite a few resources).

Note: I'm not "overly" concerned about the formatting of your paper as long as it is consistent, your information sources (references) are cited (documented), and your references are verifiable (you give me enough information to find and read the original article myself).

Your paper can be about any aspect of American Sign Language or Deaf Culture.  Rather than send me yet another cochlear implant paper (I'm not interested in you researching how to "fix" Deaf people -- I'm interested in you researching who Deaf people ARE and what they are like), you might want to focus on something that really has personal meaning for you in terms of cultural impact such as the fact that many "Hearing" people are teaching their "Hearing" babies to use sign language but there are still organizations such as the Alexander G. Bell foundation that discourage the use of signing with "deaf" infants.  How can that be justified? Or is it "unjustifiable?" Is it a form of child abuse to withhold signing from a Deaf child?  Is this a form of "audism?" (Yes that is a word and it is spelled correctly.)
In any case, please do strive to find three sites that can be cited authoritatively.
You can make the paper as lengthy as you would like.  Write me a book if you want -- as long as you use verifiable references throughout.
Dr. Bill

* Discussion:

Why do I prefer you to "not" do Cochlear Implants as a topic?

I'm going to ask you to consider the fact that this is an ASL class and that Cochlear implantation is basically geared toward physically altering people in such a way as that they will not need to use ASL as a way of communication.  Thus an ASL student doing a paper on CI's is sort of like a student taking a French class and doing a paper on the continued globalization of English.  While the globalization of English is a great topic, it doesn't lead one to have a greater understanding of nor appreciation of French. 

While Cochlear Implants are an "interesting" topic (and easy to find information on) they do not lead one to have a greater understanding of nor appreciation of American Sign Language.  See my point?  BUT -- I also get it that CI's are a part of the Deaf World and thus there are "connections" between CI's and sign language usage. Those connections are found within the lives of Deaf people of whom many use both CI's and signing. If you have a "real live" Deaf person whom you can interview regarding those connections and thus develop a greater understanding of both ASL and CI's THEN I am willing to consider accepting an "interview-based" research paper on the topic of "CI's."
Dr. V


A student asks:
QUESTION:  "In my paper should I use the term "Deafness," or would "Deafhood" be better? Or another term altogether?"

ANSWER:  Wherever possible instead of using "deafness" I'd recommend using the phrase "Deaf people." It is also good at least once near the beginning of an article that you are writing to use the full phrase "Deaf and hard of hearing people." Then later "Deaf people" and still later you can shorten it to "the Deaf" or "Many Deaf people feel..." or "being deaf" or occasionally "visually oriented people" (heh).
The term "deafness" is occasionally warranted or appropriate for use in particular situations when you want to specifically refer to the condition of "not being able to hear sufficiently for typical speech-based communication situations" but the term should not be overused.
The term "Deafhood" refers more to a Deaf person's personal journey through life and thus is not suitable as a general term referring to "Deaf people." Sure, Deafhood can refer to a "state or experience of being Deaf" but the Deafhood "journey" varies from person to person.
I recommend visiting and looking over their front page and "recent" postings to see how one of the world's leading Deaf organizations refers to Deaf people. Also check out: (which contains some older information but is still quite informative).
- Dr. Bill

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