Selecting a topic:
It will be important for you to discuss your thinking about a topic with me well in advance, as well as throughout the process of research and writing. You may write on any text or combination of texts studied in the class, or you may write on other texts appropriate to the course content as approved by me.
My expectations for the paper are fairly common expectations for papers of academic critical analysis, and they function as the criteria I will use to assess your
paper. They include
1. Thesis: a well presented argument that provides readers
with an interpretation of a text or texts. The entire paper should
be organized and focused
by this argument.
2. Development: The primary support for your claim must
come from your own critical analysis of the primary text(s). 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 or
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 an author has written.
3. Research: Your thesis must be grounded in appropriate
criticism. While you will certainly consult more sources, you must
familiarity with a substantial body of criticism related to your topic by referring to 3-5 (5-7 for graduate students) secondary 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 what has been said on the subject you're
exploring and to demonstrate for your readers what your are adding to the discussion or where you differ from what other critics have said.
In addition to a search of the library catalog, you must conduct
a search of the MLA Bibliographical Index for articles relevant to your
topic. The Index is
available online through Ingram Library/Galileo.
Do not rely on or cite such sources as Cliff's Notes or similar
sources available in print or online. While such "notes" might help
unravel 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.
4. Documentation: Document sources completely and correctly
using MLA style. Use a handbook; The MLA Style Manual
and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 2nd edition, 1998, available in the Reference section of the library, PN147 .G444; or a reliable web site such as the one
provided at this link as a guide.
5. The final paper should be 10-12 pages in length, typed, double-spaced with one inch margins all around. Graduate papers should be 12-15 pages in length. The Works Cited page should be the final numbered page. It does not count toward the length requirements, however. Note: Graduate students will write the longer, more thoroughly research paper in lieu of taking the final exam. All graduate student research papers must be accompanied by an annotated bibliography that includes a minimum of 10 annotated items. For a sample annotated item, see below:
Annotated Bibliography: provide a list of secondary sources
you consult, give a standard MLA Works Cited entry for each, and provide
after each entry a brief descriptive note. Do not evaluate
or analyze the article/chapter. For example:
John K. "Nelly Dean and the Power of Wuthering Heights." Nineteenth-Century
Fiction 11. 106-29. Rpt. in
Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. Ed. Alastair Everitt. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967. 84-110.
Mathison argues that the power of the novel derives from the fact
that the narrator, Nelly Dean, is too "normal" and
"healthy" to comprehend the exorbitant passions and actions of characters such as Heathcliff and Catherine. The powerful
effect on readers occur as they realize the inadequacy of the "normal" to interpret the deeper and truer feelings of the main
characters and are forced to become active advocates for Heathcliff and Catherine in ways that could not occur with an
omniscient narrator or a less admirable first-person narrator. It is in this power that Brontë has created a genuine work of
6. As always you are expected to demonstate a command of the conventions
of academic composition and usage.