Selecting a topic:
Select your topic in consultation with me. You may write on any subject appropriate for a study in American culture, but remember to use an interdisciplary approach to the subject. Our study of both Gettysburg and the Civil Rights Movement serve as models for an interdisciplinary approach to a subject. I will be happy to discuss with you how the models can be adapted to the topic you choose in consultation with me.
1. Thesis: a well presented argument that provides
with an interpretation of a text, event or movement (etc). The
entire paper should
be organized and focused
by this argument.
2. Development: Develop
your argument with clearly
articulated subpoints supported by discussion of appropriate passages
from the work(s). Do not weaken your paper by quoting excessively
substituting long quotations for discussion. Remember that your
task is to convince readers of your interpretation, and that cannot be
done simply by copying
what others have written.
3. Research: Your thesis must be grounded in appropriate research from multiple disciplines and media--scholarship, journalism, oral history, popular media While you will certainly consult more sources, you must demonstrate your familiarity with a substantial body of research elated to your topic by referring to 4-5 sources in your paper. Reading critical interpretations should sharpen your own thinking and perhaps bring to light issues you had not considered before. But do not use secondary sources to "prove" your own interpretation. Use them instead to demonstrate your awareness of some of what has been said on the subject you're exploring and to demonstrate for your readers what you are adding to the discussion or where you differ from what other critics have said.
Do not rely on or cite such sources as Cliff's Notes or similar
available in print or online. While such "notes" might help
some of the knots
presented by the difficult works we read, they are often unreliable and are always unauthoritative. Similarly, while a number of respectable journals are
available online now, personal web sites posted to present an individual's views are not reliable sources for research. Do not cite such sources.
4. Documentation: Document sources completely and correctly using MLA, APA, or other disciplinary-related style of documentation appropriate to your field of study. Use a Handbook.
5. The final paper should be 10-12 pages in length, typed,
with one inch margins all around.
The Works Cited page should be the final numbered page.
It does not count toward the length requirements, however. Mixed
media projects are also welcome, but if you use other
media--Powerpoint, photos, interviews, film--consult with me closely
about the number of pages of analytical text you will need to
write. Creative projects based on research are also acceptable,
but you must consult with me carefully to determine if your idea is