The research paper assignment for this course is due at the end of week 7. The skills required for successfully completing this assignment are the concluding step in the GMC ENG 101/ENG 102 sequence, effectively displaying your skills as a writer, researcher, and critical thinker.
Research Paper Instructions
Your research paper should be an argumentative essay that makes a specific claim about some aspect(s) of 2-3 of the literary works assigned in class. The claim should incorporate some specific school of literary theory discussed in class. Support this claim and argument in a coherent, developed, and organized essay of at least 1200-1500 words minimum (not counting the works cited page) and must also successfully use at least 3 critical secondary sources accessed through the relevant GMC Library databases.
The bulleted list below provides general options for paper topics. The entirety of the class reading assignments can be found in the Course Syllabus, under “Course Schedule.” The list below provides general options for paper topics:
- A topic incorporating multiple texts (no more than 2) by different authors
- A topic incorporating multiple texts (no more than 3) by the same author
Tips and Reminders
Re-read the texts on which you want to base your paper.
Once you have decided on a topic (which will be begun in Week 5), begin doing preliminary research (you will need to do a lot of research for this assignment anyway). Read what other literary critics have said. This will help you to further narrow down your topic, and even to find some of the sources you will end up using in the paper. Remember that you are a literary critic too—this means you should feel free to question and disagree with the interpretations you read.
Ensure your thesis is arguable and requires effective research to answer or prove. Don’t be afraid to leap and propose a new, creative, and/or unique interpretation, provided you can support that claim with reasonable textual evidence and research. For more information, review the online learning resources assigned throughout the quarter.
Your paper must incorporate information from outside sources found in the literature databases at GMC Library or relevant resources linked in class. Remember that you have three methods for incorporating outside information into any paper: you can quote (use the source’s exact words), paraphrase (put the source’s words into your own), or summarize (boil down information from a source to a 1-2 sentence summary in your own words). Also remember that each of these methods needs to be cited using correct MLA formatting and documentation; Review grade feedback on past response papers for help with this! Again, research outside class is restricted to relevant scholarly articles at GMC Library.
Avoid unnecessary plot summary and/or biographical information. Assume that your reader has already read the work you are discussing– readers don’t need your help understanding what happens in a story; they need your help understanding why these things happened and what they might mean.
Organize your argument to maximize its effectiveness. Your introduction should include a thesis. Each paragraph of your paper should include a topic sentence referencing your thesis. Each sentence in each paragraph should directly support that paragraph’s topic sentence.
First, it’s important to remember that your research paper should be an argumentative essay that makes a specific claim about the literature on which you’re writing. To help prove your claim, you should apply a specific literary theory to your chosen text(s).
Note: Keep in mind that this isn’t an informative research paper, it’s an argumentative one, meaning that you will be presenting persuasive evidence to your reader in order to support a stance you’ve taken on your chosen topic.
One way to break down this task is to pick your texts/topic and consider something that interests you about that topic. Developing a question you can research and argue will give you a place to go as you develop your thesis. From there, you will find what literary theory works best to help you reach some conclusions about your question, which should lead you to your thesis. Below are two examples of a topic, a research question, a literary theory, and a thesis that developed out of them:
Topic: Star Wars
Literary Theory: Historical
Research Question: Is Star Wars merely camp, or was it an important contribution to cinema?
Thesis: Star Wars is the most important film of the 20th century.
Literary Theory: Psychological
Research Question: Why is Hamlet so tormented?
Thesis: Hamlet experiences internal conflict because he is in love with his mother.
***Keep in mind (for Example #2):
- You would not want to make an argument of this sort: “Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play about a young man who seeks revenge.”That doesn’t say anything-it’s basically just a summary and is hardly debatable.
- Remember, an analytical research paper isn’t about what happens in a story- it’s about explaining why something happens, its causes, its significance. Analyze, don’t summarize.
- The Hamlet thesis is debatable, controversial even. The rest of a paper with this argument as its thesis would be an attempt to show, using specific examples from the text and evidence from scholars, (1) how Hamlet is in love with his mother, (2) why he’s in love with her, and (3) what implications there are for reading the play in this manner.