research paper

For this assignment, you will build upon your knowledge of the relationship between drug use and society by writing a research paper on a relevant topic. The paper should be between 1750 and 2250 words (which should be approximately seven to eight pages with double spacing, one inch margins, and a 12 point font, but the word count is the actual requirement). For your topic, you should select a particular drug from the list at the bottom of this document. Note that not all the drugs we will cover in the course are available – our course covers drugs like alcohol, marijuana and tobacco extensively, so I have left them out. If you want to write about a drug that isn’t on the list, feel free to e-mail Professor Tomlin about it (the earlier the better). For whichever drug you choose, describe in detail each of the following seven topics:


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1. The discovery/development of the drug, including where it comes from

2. The drug’s effects on the brain, especially which neurotransmitters it affects

3. The drug’s effects on individual behavior and health, both positive and negative

4. The history of the drug’s use, including availability, method of administration and demographic trends

5. The history of the drug’s regulation in the United States

6. The drug’s regulatory status in other countries (for those countries that are notably more or less restrictive).

7. The risk of dependence and currently used methods for, and effectiveness of, the treatment of dependence


Note that you do not have to use the order above if you feel that another order works better, just so long as the paper has a logical flow from one topic to the next. For this assignment, you will need to conduct independent research on the existing literature. You should use at least four sources – see the assignment rubric for guidelines on getting full credit for research. The sources that you use should be listed at the end of the paper in a reference list using APA format (the reference list does not count against the length of the paper), and direct quotes or paraphrases should be cited appropriately in the text according to APA format, even if they are from your textbook! Avoid long quotations – the vast majority of the paper should be your own writing; if you rely on long quotes to reach the required word count, Professor Tomlin will not count them toward the requirement. Paraphrasing is a much better indicator that you’ve understood, digested, and synthesized the material. If you can express an idea in a cogent fashion, it means you understand it! Be careful when citing your sources, especially when it comes to the difference between a direct quotation and a paraphrase. Both require citations, but they obey different formatting (a good page on the subject can be found here:


In short, a direct quote (set off by quotation marks) is the original author’s exact words. A paraphrase is when you put the original author’s idea into your own words. This is an important difference: if it’s a direct quote but you make it look like a paraphrase, your are claiming the author’s words as your own, which is plagiarism! Plagiarism (i.e., using a source without appropriately citing it) is not acceptable, and will result in a penalty up to and including failure of the course. A guide to APA style can be found here:


While the references and citations must be in APA format, the formatting of the rest of the paper is mostly up to you (e.g., you do not have to have an APA formatted title page or section headers). That being said, it is best to have your name, a title, the course number, and the due date of the paper somewhere at the beginning. A good paper should also have an introduction and a conclusion – do not simply start or end your paper in the middle of a thought! In terms of style, avoid using the first person (“I”, “me”, “we”, etc.). If you’re asserting an opinion, you don’t need to say “I think that this treatment method is ineffective” or “In my opinion, this treatment should not be used”: the paper is by definition composed of your thoughts, so you can just say “This method of treatment is ineffective because . . .”. The exception to this rule is if you are relating a personal experience (i.e., telling a story about something that happened to you) – it is acceptable to use the first person in this case.


While your textbook is a good starting point, this is first and foremost a research paper. You will need to cite at least four different sources, at least two of which should be primary research articles from scientific journals. If you cite a source in your reference list, make sure you cover the information from that source in your paper (i.e., don’t pad your reference list with source material that you don’t actually use). Note that web sites such as, Yahoo, and Wikipedia are not appropriate sources, although these may lead you to sources that are appropriate. If you are unsure if a source is appropriate to cite, just ask Professor Tomlin. Just because a source reports data doesn’t mean that it’s a research article! Generally speaking, the following are signs that your source isn’t from a scientific journal:


1. It’s only a few hundred words and/or you can’t identify the author. This is common for web pages, which may summarize scientific findings, but not for research articles. Research articles always have an identifiable author, publication date, and page numbers.

2. It doesn’t present an argument of some form. Research articles use data to make a point, so if the source simply provides a broad overview or a compilation of graphs and tables, it likely isn’t primary research.

3. You can’t find it using Google Scholar or PubMed (or these search engines list the source as a book or magazine, which isn’t the same thing as a research article).

4. It doesn’t cite other sources. Just like your research paper, scientific articles always cite the work of others (complete with references) – if your source doesn’t, it’s probably an opinion piece or a journalistic piece.


After applying these guidelines, if you’re still unsure if a source constitutes a research article from a scientific journal, just ask Professor Tomlin. Be sure to proof read your paper once it’s written – good grammar and spelling are important – typos and grammatical errors can make a paper difficult to understand, and make it seem like you’re less proficient than you are! This assignment will be worth 16% of your grade, and should be submitted via Blackboard (either in PDF or Word format) by Friday, October 23rd at 11:59 PM.


Available Drug Topics:

1. Anabolic steroids

2. Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium)

3. Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

4. Opium (note: opium, not opioids or opiates in general)

5. St. John’s Wort

6. Morphine

7. Psilocybin (derived from “magic mushrooms”)

8. Mescaline

9. 1-(1-phenylcyclohexyl) piperidine hydrochloride (PCP)

10. Amphetamines

11. Barbiturates

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