Your goal is to write a researched argument on a literary topic related to one of the assigned novels in the course: Heart of Darkness, The Picture of Dorian Gray, or Notes from the Underground. You will make an interpretive claim about the novel based on how one (or several) literary device works to communicate a message or achieve an effect of some sort.
What a literary research paper IS:
• argumentative – You are making an arguable claim about some element of the novel that someone else could argue against.
• literary – You are looking at several literary elements of the text (i.e. tone, style, syntax, dialogue, setting, symbols, allegory, allusion, characterization, irony, theme, etc.) and how they operate.
• interpretive – You are bringing in YOUR specific interpretation of what the literary devices represent, mean, or communicate.
• analytical – You are digging beneath the self-evidence of a literary device being present (i.e. “Darkness is a symbol in Heart of Darkness”) and analyzing its significance based on your unique interpretation (i.e. “The symbolism of darkness in Heart of Darkness represents the evil of European colonial enterprise in Africa.”).
• researched – You are bringing in other experts’ ideas to either help support your argument or for you to argue against.
What a literary research paper IS NOT:
• summary of the novel – You may need to provide some summary as context for your argument in certain places of your paper, but simple summary (i.e. recounting the events of the novel) should comprise no more than 7% of your final paper.
• obvious or self-evident – You want to push beyond stating what is obvious and keep your interpretation (i.e. WHY something is) and analysis (i.e. HOW something is) front and center.
• informative only – Do not write an informative paper about the author’s biography and/or the history of the text’s contemporary time. You may bring those elements in to help contextualize your argument, but your entire paper should not be biographical and/or historical.
Examples of thesis statements that are argumentative and interpretive:
• “The settings and characters in The Great Gatsby suggest that affluence results in dangerous repercussions.”
• “Hemingway uses nature to symbolize death in A Farewell to Arms.”
• “Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave ‘civilized’ society and go back to nature.”
Think about questions like this:
• SYMBOLISM: Does the novel contain a great deal of symbolism? Perhaps you could write a paper that deals with the author’s use of one symbol or a series of related symbols that play(s) a part in your interpretation of a key aspect of the novel’s overall meaning or purpose.
• GENDER ROLES: How are men and/or women portrayed in the novel? Are there marked differences between them? What gender expectations do they follow or fight against?
• HISTORICAL CONTEXT: What was happening historically at the time the novel was written? Was the author using his or her text to comment on, criticize, or educate readers on something happening in his or her historical moment?
• CHARACTERIZATION: Was a particular character used to represent an idea or ideology that served to illuminate something larger?
• THEME: What do you identify as the central theme (the overarching idea, lesson, or message) of the novel? How did the author communicate that message (i.e. through what other literary devices) and to what end or purpose? Themes are usually large abstract concepts (love, death, loss of innocence, power and corruption, survival, a great journey, revenge, fate, etc.) and are often juxtaposed against an opposing idea (light v. dark, death and rebirth, man v. nature, man v. society, prejudice v. acceptance, good v. evil, etc.).
• SETTING: What is significant about the author’s portrayal of the setting (the landscape, the urbanization of an area, the time and place in which the action is set, etc.)? How does a change in setting affect the development of the plot or characters?
• IRONY: Is there a contrast or incongruity between expectations and the reality of what is portrayed in the novel? Is there a perceptible difference between the surface elements of the text (dialogue, description, etc.) and a perceived underlying meaning?
In determining the grade for the paper, I will consider form (mechanics, grammar), content, documentation, formatting, and process. Each will affect the final grade for the paper.
• Research papers will have a body of seven to ten (7-10) pages.
o The paper must also have an outline and Works Cited page. (These pages are NOT considered as part of the body page count.)
o You will find a sample research paper, including a sample Works Cited page at the Purdue OWL website. Their website also offers information about outlining; be sure to click through the three subsections regarding outlining.
o The order of pages in the paper is the outline, body of the paper, then the works cited page. These are all to be saved and sent to me as one document.
• The final Works Cited page will contain seven to eight (7-8) sources.
o The sources will be derived from appropriate books, periodicals, etc., to denote a variety of sources used; you are expected to begin your research with the CTC library’s online databases.
o Each of the sources used in the Works Cited must be used at least once in the research paper.
o Include a variety of sources: books, articles, newspapers, and websites (as long as there is an author listed). DO NOT use web sources without an author.
o Limit internet sources to 2 ONLY (with the exception of articles or books found on internet databases – these count as regular print sources).
o The following are NOT appropriate sources: Cliffs Notes, Pink Monkey, Masterplots, Sparknotes, Answers.com, Wikipedia, Schmoop, eNotes, Gradesaver, Prezis, essays from paper mills, etc.
o You will lose 5 points for every source under 7 sources. (If your paper has only 4 sources, you will be penalized 15 points. If you fail to include any outside research whatsoever, you will be penalized 35 points.)
o If you fail to include a Works Cited page, you will be penalized 15 points and are subject to charges of plagiarism..
• Each sentence in the research paper using outside research that is quoted directly or paraphrased should be cited using in-text citations.
o Direct quotations from sources should comprise no more than 20% of the paper.
o If you fail to include any in-text citations, you will be penalized at least 15 points and are subject to charges of plagiarism.
• An annotated bibliography listing your outside sources may be turned in before the research paper is written for helpful review and suggestions.
o This gives you the opportunity to check sources to ensure they are valid academic resources and that your Works Cited entries contain the necessary publication information from the sources. The CTC library staff may help you with this, as well.
• You are to follow the MLA 8th Edition format and documentation as described at the Purdue OWL site.
o Creative title centered above the paper
o Times New Roman 12-point font
o Indented paragraphs
o Proper citation of sources (in-text citations and a Works Cited page)
• The research paper should be formally written and edited:
o All words should be spelled correctly and errors in sentence structure eliminated.
o The level of diction should be formal (no slang, contractions, jargon, or technical terms without definition).
o The paper should be well written and scholarly.
• The research paper must be submitted using the SafeAssign link provided (after the BioSig verification) in the Research Paper Lesson folder.
o Please note that submitting the paper will occur at the end of the term and will require that you complete the BioSig verification to do so. This link will not be visible until you verify the signature using BioSig. Do not do this until you are ready to submit the paper.