This year we received a number of papers on quite interesting topics. Perhaps because in this day and age we all have a wealth of information literally at our fingertips, many of the papers were on somewhat unconventional and quite fascinating topics. Partly for that reason, the majority of papers were a pleasure to read.
Nevertheless, the judges were able to identify several problems which were in evidence in a number of the papers. First, a surprising number of authors seemed to have difficulty documenting their sources (in most cases using APA documentation style) correctly. This would not be surprising in a classroom situation, but it is somewhat disappointing in the context of an academic writing contest. There are a number of guides available on documentation styles such as APA; we expect students to be able to follow the rules of these documentation styles correctly. Second, although many of the authors went into great detail on the topics that they had chosen, we found that many of the papers were lacking a clear argument, and in many cases were lacking anything resembling a clear thesis statement. Finally, several of the papers contained conclusions which seemed inconsistent with the results of the analysis. The results of a research project can be exciting when they challenge our notions of what we thought was 'normal' or 'true'. However, for the very same reason ― because they can contradict our common-sense view of reality ― those 'exciting' research results can appear to be threatening. It sometimes requires courage, therefore, to come to grips with the findings of our research and follow them to their rational conclusion. We were pleased that so many of the papers contained exciting information on fascinating topics, but at the same time, we hope that in the future more applicants will find the courage to explore the ramifications of their findings, even in cases in which those implications could be somewhat unsettling.