This page contains the general description of the source-based research project. The project will be split into multiple parts and stages, all of which are explained below in this module. Please begin by reading this page to get an idea of what this project will require from you.
The purpose of this project is to explore, in writing, some relevant question about a literary work, collection of works, an author, or other related topic. You are asked to pose and explore, through research, a question which may be of interest to those interested in the study of literature. Note the difference: this is not report on a “topic.” Instead, you are asked to formulate a relevant question, research possible answers to that question, make and support a claim about that question in your paper. In practice, this difference works as follows:
A paper based on a topic would do the following:
1. choose a topic
2. collect information on that topic
3. arrange and present that information, for no particular purpose
A question and claim-based paper would do this, though:
1. select a topic
2. research existing conversations about that topic, in academic literature
3. formulate a question about the topic and explain why this question is important and for whom
4. explore existing research related to the question
5. make an arguable claim about the question
6. support that claim with evidence from published research
You are writing for people interested in the systematic study of literature. It may be useful to this about your classmates as your primary audience. Your audience will expect from you a scholarly analysis of a scholarly question, using scholarly sources, such as academic articles and books. That excludes popular sources, such as Wikipedia entries, other popular websites, Youtube videos, etc.
Suitable topics and questions
Briefly put, any subject that has to do with the scholarly study of literature, is suitable. Some options are:
1. Interpretations and ways of reading of a particular story, poem, or play from our class textbook
2. Bodies of work of a particular author (fiction writer, poet, or playwright)
3. Critical theories and literary movements (this may be a bit too advanced, but feel free to find out what that is)
The only requirement is that the topic you choose and the question you build on that topic are relevant and of interest to people who study literature systematically and formally. In other words, your task is to create something that will look and sound like an academic paper, not a popular article about a literary topic. That, however, does not have to be boring and dry. The distinction between academic and popular writing is not in the style and tone, but in the kinds of sources the writing uses and what it does with those sources. More on the sources later.
Structure and format of the finished paper
The minimum threshold of quality for this paper is the presence of a research question and a claim about that question. If you do not have those elements, you will not do well. The second threshold of quality is the presence of evidence, taken from a limited number of academic sources, in support of that claim. In other words, to build an argument, you have to provide some credible evidence for your claims.
Your final draft should be 5-6 pages long, give or take, and use no more than 3-4 carefully selected sources. It is better to use fewer sources well than to dump a lot of information into a paper indiscriminately. Every source you use and and every time you use it should help you in some way to answer your research question. Please cite and document your sources and format your paper using the MLA style.
Steps of the Project
1. Reading about research writing in the Little Seagull Handbook
2. Selecting and studying the research sources
3. Creating an annotated biblipgraphy
4. Coming up with a research question
5. Writing the first draft
First, re-read the overall description for this paper, which can be found earlier in this module. Next, for this draft, explain what work of literature you chose to analyze and why you chose it. Next, using the sources you found and discussed in the annotated bibliography, explain what you learned about that work of literature reading those sources. Think about this question: How does reading and knowing about those sources change the way you read and understand the story, poem, or play, you chose for this project. Please remember to cite and document your sources using MLA style.
IMPORTANT: to conduct a peer review of other students’ drafts, click on “Peer Reviews” on the right side of this page. Each of you has been assigned three other papers to read. Likewise, your paper has been assigned to three other students. If you do not see anyone’s paper to review yet, that means the people assigned to you have not yet submitted their drafts. Which brings me to the next point: let’s all be helpful to one another and try to submit stuff on time. Your classmates depend on that, just like you depend on your classmates for the same.
Please note that the draft is due on 3/26, and the peer review is due on 3/31.
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