Research Paper

Research Paper Information


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For our research paper, you’ll be selecting a writer that we’ll be reading this semester and one of that writer’s works,which we won’t be reading.  I’ve posted a document in this module with all the writers and their works for this term.


I don’t recommend that you select a long work, like a novel, because your research will be too overwhelming.  On the other hand, if you select a poet who writes short poems, it will be okay to use more than one work.


Most of you will need to do preliminary research to decide which writer and work interests you.  Feel free to send me an email if you’d like some ideas.


The Topic:


Next, you’ll need to figure out what you want to prove about this writer and his/her work(s).   Please select one of the following social topics:


  • The role of women
  • The role of people of color
  • The American South
  • The role of the soldier
  • The industrialization of America
  • The alienation of people in the 20th century
  • The impact of war
  • The role of the immigrant
  • The relationship between men and women
  • The natural environment
  • The role of religion



Now do more research:


Conduct research to discover how your writer’s biography and attitudes, your social topic and your work connect. Express that connection as a thesis statement.


A thesis statement is a 1 to 2 sentence statement of the point you’ll be proving.  It’s sort of like a hypothesis in a lab experiment.  Your thesis statement must NOT be in first person (me, my, I, our, us . .  .) and must NOT announce your topic (this paper will . . .  ; or I am going to prove . . . ).


Here’s an example:


  • If I link Ambrose Bierce to the social topic of “the role of war” to his work “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” my thesis statement would be something like:


After serving several tours of duty as a soldier, American writer Ambrose Bierce expressed his disgust with war in his short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.”


Here’s another:


  • If I link Flannery O’Connor to the social topic of “the role of religion” to her work “Good Country People,” my thesis statement would be something like:


A conservative Roman Catholic, American writer Flannery O’Connor examined hypocrisy and the need for confession in her short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”



You’ll be turning in your draft thesis statement early in the term.  That draft thesis statement will serve as the foundation for the paper proposal, the annotated bibliography and the research paper.  More information about the annotated bibliography and the paper proposal are on the class website.



Now do more research and start focusing on that thesis:


Ultimately your writing will pick apart the text considering all points where this social role is presented, referenced or commented on. Elements of formalist and biographical critique are expected. Further explorations of themes such as feminism, postmodernism or race theory are optional, but can be very helpful.




The Research Paper


Ultimately, you’ll be writing an 8 to 10-page paper with 2-3 page of citations on your topic.  The research paper will need at least 10 reliable sources, with at least 10 corresponding in-text citations.


We’ll be talking more about the appropriate organization of that paper but, for now, get started working toward a thesis statement.



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