analysis and criticism


5-8 page research paper.

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The research argument is not too different from the thesis-driven literary analysis we’ve done in Papers One and Two. This assignment, however, will ask you to incorporate outside research (secondary sources) in support of your argument.

The easiest way to do this is to pick an author. Hemingway, Oates, Baldwin, O’Brien, Auden, Piercy, Brooks, and Sophocles are all great choices. De Beauvoir only works as a secondary source (a commentary on someone else’s work) and Shakespeare doesn’t work at all: there’s too much existing criticism, so unless you already have an extremely specific way you want to conduct your research into Shakespeare, it will be overwhelming.

You can also pick someone we have not read in class. I’ve received great Orwell, Poe, and Vonnegut papers, among others, in the past. If you want to write about someone we have not read in class, please run it by me as soon as you can. When I tell you that Harry Potter does not work for this assignment, it’s not because I don’t like the books (though I definitely do not like the books), it’s because there’s not yet a body of scholarly criticism about them, which you will need to access to fulfill the requirements of the assignment.

Another way to approach your topic is thematically: fiction about the Vietnam war, for example. Feminist poets of the Harlem Renaissance, that kind of thing. Your textbook does a good job of arranging the material thematically (and asking questions that prompt theses in response), so it may suggest some links to work we’ve already read.

CCM Library guide to 112 Research Paper:
Under the Research Paper folder, I’ve also included a handout from CCM’s research librarians, which will walk you through your research procedures.

1. Your first step should be the Gale Virtual Reference Library. Access it from the library’s main page<> —–> Articles & Databases<> —–> G (for Gale).
On the left-hand menu, click Literature. In the search bar, put in your author’s name. This search will return entries from various literary encyclopedias which will provide helpful overviews of a.) your author’s biography, b.) your author’s works, and c.) the kinds of critical approaches scholars have taken to your author. This will be the most helpful part, as you get started on your project—it will indicate the types of themes experts have identified in their own analyses. I’ve posted a sample entry, for Baldwin, in the Research Paper folder.

Primary sources are written by your author. Secondary sources are written about your author’s work. Tertiary sources—reference works like encyclopedias—are summaries of various secondary sources. As such, you will not cite anything from Gale in your paper, or include these entries as one of your sources.

2. Once you get a general sense of where you might want to focus (“race in Baldwin,” “female sexuality in Oates,” “the recurring character of Nick Adams in Hemingway’s short stories,” etc.) you’ll need to track down your primary sources, the poetry/drama/fiction/essays written by your author.

If we were on campus, we could just go to the shelves in the library and start pulling books. Alas we cannot. The best solution I’ve come up with is Open Library<>. You’ll have to sign up for a (free) account, which will give you access to, hopefully, all the material you’ll need.

Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway<>

Selected Short Stories of Joyce Carol Oates<>

James Baldwin–Going to Meet the Man<>

Sophocles–The Theban Plays<Sophocles–The%20Theban%20Plays>

Tim O’Brien–The Things They Carried<>

Various poetry collections by Marge Piercy<>

For the purposes of academic writing, each individual, anthologized work counts as “a source.” “The Man I Killed” and “Good Form,” both from Tim O’Brien’s short story collection The Things They Carried, each count as sources. A book of poems by Marge Piercy might contain thirty poems. Each one is a potential source.

Your number of primary sources will depend on what they are, relative to the scope of the paper (5-8 pages). If you’re writing about Sophocles, one play is probably enough to get you to five or so pages of analysis. That would mean one primary source. If you’re using shorter poems like “Barbie Doll,” you might need three or four of them to fill out the paper. Baldwin’s stories are fairly dense and elaborate. Maybe two will suffice. Hemingway’s are more spare. Three, for him? You’ll have to feel it out as you draft. My recommendation is to cast a wider net in the early stages. Better to have an extra story that you have read and are prepared to discuss than to discover that your draft has fizzled out after three pages and you need to find more material.

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