Create a debatable focused thesis, an argument based on one or more of the assigned
readings in the course.
The Research Paper Assignment Guide
Learn how to write a focused researched essay.
At completion of this assignment, you will be able to
Create a debatable focused thesis, an argument based on one or more of the assigned
readings in the course.
Develop the focused thesis in an organized essay that flows in a logical presentation.
Support the focused thesis with both the primary source(s) and secondary scholarly
Utilize the scholarly research, completed for the annotated bibliography assignment,
to support the focused thesis.
Incorporate and cite scholarly sources using MLA format.
Create a researched essay focused on one or more of the course’s assigned readings.
What is a Research Paper?
In this class, the research paper is defined as a literary analysis—a paper that explains and
interprets a specific idea about one of the texts assigned in the course. The goal of this
assignment is to argue a particular point of view that will broaden and deepen an
understanding of your selected text.
Therefore, your objective is to support a thesis—a focused argument with evidence. Your
interpretation addresses meaning in the work itself, but your paper must be developed and
supported with evidence from the text you have selected, the primary source, and also from
secondary sources, scholarly articles and books.
Most of your research will have been completed with the Annotated Bibliography
Assignment. However, you do not have to use all the sources you cited in this bibliography,
but you may need to add new sources, depending on your paper’s focus.
Requirements for the Assignment
Your essay will propose a central idea (thesis) that is supported and developed with
several body paragraphs that grow systematically out of the central idea. Everything
in the essay must be directly related to the central idea and must contribute to the
reader’s understanding of that central idea.
Both the primary source, the selected text, and secondary sources are required to
support the thesis.
Four to seven secondary, scholarly sources are required. Do not use unreliable online
sources, such as Wikipedia or Sparknotes. Only scholarly sources are accepted. (See
suggested list in this document).
The final paper will be five to seven pages in length, not counting the Works Cited
Everything in the paper, including citation and the Works Cited page (see attachment
for an example), must follow current MLA guidelines. For specific information on
how to use MLA format, please see The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. The OWL at Purdue, online
writing lab, is another excellent
The final paper will be typed and double-spaced with one inch margins. Use a 12
point font, such as Times New Roman, and black ink.
Submit your paper as a Word document; do not put your paper in an adobe PDF file.
The final paper will be well organized, cohesive, and grammatically/ mechanically
Give your paper a title.
The final essay will be graded using the Essay Grading Rubric.
The final essay must be submitted through the course’s Dropbox tool.
Checklist for Writing an Effective Research Paper
Does your first paragraph introduce your topic, name the writer and the work, and
explain your purpose or thesis?
Is your thesis clear? Does it state the central idea of your essay? Do you thoroughly
explain your purpose and define all your terms?
Have you used terms, including literary terminology, correctly? Have you defined all
the important terms?
Is your paper organized in a way that your reader will be able to follow your
Are your developmental paragraphs unified (everything in the paragraph relates to
the topic of the paragraph) and coherent (everything in the paragraph is arranged in a
Does your paper flow? Have you used transitional words where necessary within
each paragraph? Are there transitions linking all the paragraphs of your essay?
Have you used adequate support for your points, including brief summary,
paraphrase, specific details, and direct quotations? Have you explained why you are
using them and how they support your central idea?
Do you have enough scholarly sources?
Have you integrated quotations effectively into your paper? Make sure you
introduce the quote properly and put it in context. After you put in the quote,
explain it to your reader.
Have you used correct grammar and mechanics? Do you have run-ons or fragments?
Too many short, choppy sentences? Do you have ambiguous pronouns?
Do you use MLA format properly? Do you have a Works Cited page?
Have you given your paper an appropriate title? Does your title describe your
Have you used all the correct literary conventions? Did you avoid the use of first
person? Did you use present tense?
The deadline to submit your Final Researched Essay Assignment will be outlined in the
Sample Topics and Accompanying Scholarly Sources for the Research Paper
The topics below are good topics for a short research paper. Each topic is based on one or
more of the readings in the course. Your paper must be based on something we have read in
class, so these topics satisfy that requirement. You must have quotations in your paper, both
from the literary text and from secondary texts, which for our purposes, are scholarly articles
from literary journals. The sources below all fit that bill and can all be found in Academic
Search Complete. They are presented below in MLA style—if you get them online, you
need to add the following at the end of the citation in place of “print”: Academic Search
Complete. Web. 20 Sept. 2015 (the last item is the date you accessed the database; the first
item is the database itself), so make sure you follow the same style as below when you create
your Works Cited for your paper.
Remember: A Works Cited page means that you are citing each of these works in your paper
at least once. You do not put any article in that list unless you are citing it in your paper. It is
not a general bibliography. It is a “Works Cited.” Notice how the works are presented
below: the second line of an entry is indented from the left margin, and the works are
presented in alphabetical order.
From your course navigation bar, click on the Library tab and select the GALILEO link—
click on “Browse by Subject”—click on “Literature, Language, and Literary Criticism”—
then, click on “Literature and Literary Criticism.” You will see “Academic Search Complete”
and “MLA International Bibliography.” These are your two best sources, but start with
Academic Search Complete. You should be able to find these articles by typing in the
author’s name. Sometimes, however, you may have to type in the title of the article. Once
you find the article, click on the pdf. file, open it, and print it out or save it to your computer.
Do this for each of the 4-6 articles you wish to annotate and use in your Research
Paper. When you are finished, you will have your research in hand for your paper. Proceed
to read each article carefully, make notes on key ideas and statements, summarize each article,
and begin thinking how the article can be useful to your paper.
1. Compare/Contrast the poetry of Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley in relation
to (1) the dominant themes in their poems, (2) the social context in which each
woman wrote, and (3) their respective styles.
Ditmore, Michael G. “Bliss Lost, Wisdom Gained: Contemplating Emblems and Enigmas in
Anne Bradstreet’s ‘Contemplations.’” Early American Literature 42.1 (2007): 31-72. Print.
[If you are using the database only from which to attain the pdf. of the article, then
instead of “Print” you would type “Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Sept. 2015
(whatever the date is that you accessed the database.]
Engberg, Kathrynn. “The Right to Write: The Literary Politics of Anne Bradstreet and
Phillis Wheatley.” Women’s Studies 43.3 (2014): 393-98. Print.
Hall, Louisa. “The Influence of Anne Bradstreet’s Innovative Errors.” Early American
Literature 48.1 (2013): 1-27. Print.
Harvey, Tamara. “‘Now Sisters … impart your usefulnesse, and force’: Anne Bradstreet’s
Feminist Functionalism in The Tenth Muse (1650).” Early American Literature 35 (2000): 5
Kopacz, Paula. “‘To finish what’s begun’: Anne Bradstreet’s Last Words.” Early American
Literature 23.2 (1988): 175-187. Print.
Levernier, James A. “Phillis Wheatley and the New England Clergy.” Early American
Literature 26.1 (1991): 21-38. Print.
Scheick, William J. “Subjection and Prophecy in Phillis Wheatley’s Verse Paraphrases of
Scripture.” College Literature 22.3 (1995): 122-30. Print.
Whelan, Timothy. “‘Contemplations’: Anne Bradstreet’s Homage to Calvin and Reformed
Theology.” Christianity and Literature 42 (1992): 41-68. Print.
2. Analyze the relationship between Alymer and Georgiana in Hawthorne’s short
story, “The Birth-mark.” In what ways do mind and heart, imagination and feeling,
and attitudes toward masculine and feminine behavior determine the success or
failure of that relationship?
Askew, Melvin W. “Hawthorne, the Fall, and the Psychology of Maturity.” Critical Insights:
Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ed Jack Lynch. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2010. 231-241. Print.
Eckstein, Barbara. “Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’: Science and Romance as Belief.” Studies In
Short Fiction 26.4 (1989): 511-519. Print.
Keetley, Dawn. “Bodies and Morals: Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’ and Neil LaBute’s ‘The
Shape of Things.’” Literature Film Quarterly 38.1 (2010): 16-28. Print.
Marshall, Megan. “Sophia’s Crimson Hand.” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 37.2 (2011): 36-47.
McKenna, John J. “Lessons about Pygmalion Projects and Temperament in Hawthorne’s
‘The Birthmark.’” Eureka Studies in Teaching Short Fiction 7.1 (2006): 36-43.
Reid, Alfred S. “Hawthorne’s Humanism: ‘The Birthmark’ and Sir Kenelm Digby.” American
38.3 (1966): 337-51. Print.
Rosenberg, Liz. “‘The Best That Earth Could Offer’: ‘The Birth-Mark,’ A Newly-Wed’s
Story.” Studies in Short Fiction 30.2 (1993): 145-52. Print.
Balestrini, Nassim W. “From Alymer’s Experiment to Aesthetic Surgery.” Nathaniel
Hawthorne Review 38.1 (2012): 58-84. Print.
3. Analyze the relationship between Bartleby and the lawyer. What role does Wall
Street and the presence of “walls” play in that relationship?
Anderson, Walter E. “Form and Meaning in ‘Bartleby the Scrivener.’” Studies in Short
Fiction 18.4 (1981): 383-94. Print.
Davis, Todd F. “The Narrator’s Dilemma in ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’: The Excellently
Illustrated Re-statement of a Problem.” Studies in Short Fiction 34.2 (1997): 183-193. Print.
Doloff, Steven. “The Prudent Samaritan: Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’ as Parody of
Christ’s Parable to the Lawyer.” Studies in Short Fiction 34.3 (1997): 357-61. Print.
Foley, Barbara. “From Wall Street to Astor Place: Historicizing Melville’s ‘Bartleby.’”
American Literature 72.1 (2000): 87-116. Print.
Morgan, Winifred. “‘Bartleby’ and the Failure of Conventional Virtue.” Renascence 45.4
(1993): 257-27. Print.
Perry, Dennis R. “‘Ah, humanity’: Compulsion Neuroses in Melville’s ‘Bartleby.’” Studies in
Short Fiction 24.4 (1987): 407-15. Print.
Reed, Naomi C. “The Specter of Wall Street: ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’ and the Language of
Commodities.” American Literature 76.2 (2004): 247-273. Print.
Walser, Hannah. “The Behaviorist Character: Action without Consciousness in Melville’s
‘Bartleby.’” Narrative 23.3 (2015): 312-32. Print.
4. Analyze the interplay between madness and sanity in Roderick and the narrator in
Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.” In what ways does the house contribute to
this interplay? The presence, death, and reemergence of Madeline?
Bailey, J. O. “What Happens in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’?” Critical Insights: The Tales
of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Stephen Frye. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2009. 119-143. Print.
Bieganowski, Ronald. “The Self-Consuming Narrator in Poe’s ‘Ligeia’ and ‘Usher.’” Critical
Insights: The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Ed. Stephen Frye. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2009.
Cook, Jonathan A. “Poe and the Apocalyptic Sublime: ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’”
Papers on Language and Literature 48.1 (2012): 3-44. Print.
Drain, Kim. “Poe’s Death-Watches and the Architecture of Doubt.” New England Review 27.2
(2006): 169-177. Print.
Evans, Walter. “‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and Poe’s Theory of the Tale.” Studies in
Short Fiction 14.2 (1977): 137-44. Print.
Smith, Herbert F. “Usher’s Madness and Poe’s Organicism: A Source.” American Literature
39.3 (1967): 379-89. Print.
Timmerman, John H. “House of Mirrors: Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of
Usher.’” Papers on Language and Literature 39.3 (2003): 227-44. Print.
Voloshin, Beverley R. “Explanation in ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’” Studies in Short
Fiction 23.4 (1986): 419-28. Print.
5. Analyze the ways in which Franklin, Douglass, and Jacobs present three variations
on the American Dream. What is the prize they pursue and seek to claim for
themselves? What virtues must they possess to achieve that prize?
Brewton, Vince. “‘Bold Defiance Took its Place’: ‘Respect’ and Self-Making in Narrative of the
Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.” Mississippi Quarterly 58-3-4 (2005): 703-717.
Burns, Mark K. “‘A Slave in Form but not in Fact’: Subversive Humor and the Rhetoric of
Irony in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Studies in American Humor 3.12 (2005):
Drake, Kimberly. “Rewriting the American Self: Race, Gender and Identity in the
Autobiographies of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.” Melus 22.4 (1997): 91-108.
Glazener, Nancy, “Benjamin Franklin and the Limits of Secular Civil Society.” American
Literature 80.2 (2008): 203-31.
Larsen, Jennifer. “Converting Passive Womanhood to Active Sisterhood: Agency, Power,
and Subversion in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Women’s Studies 35.8
(2006): 739-756. Print.
Lee, Lisa Yun. “The Politics of Language in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of an
American Slave.” Melus 17.2 (1991-1992): 51-59. Print.
Leroy-Frazier, Jill. “‘Reader, my story ends with freedom’: Literacy, Authorship, and Gender
in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Obsidian III 5.1 (2004): 152-161. Print.
Morgan, Winifred. “Gender-Related Differences in the Slave Narratives of Harriet Jacobs
and Frederick Douglass.” American Studies 35.2 (1994): 73-94. Print.
Osborne, Jeff, “Benjamin Franklin and the Rhetoric of Virtuous Self-Fashioning in
Eighteenth-Century America.” Literature and History 17.2 (2008): 14-30.
Peyser, Thomas. “The Attack on Christianity in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,
an American Slave.” The Explicator 69.2 (2011): 86-89. Print.
Sokolow, Jayme A., “‘Arriving at Moral Perfection’: Benjamin Franklin and Leo
Tolstoy.” American Literature 47.3 (1975): 428-32.
Yellin, Jean Fagan. “Written by Herself: Harriet Jacobs’ Slave Narrative.” American Literature
53.3 (1981): 479-487. Print.
Reminders about the Research Paper:
Must be based on texts in class.
Must have quotations from texts and secondary sources.
Cannot argue a thesis beyond those texts.
Cannot use course content material as support for your paper, nor websites, or
encyclopedias, only the primary text and scholarly articles.
Citations come with a page number, every time.
Citations in text must be done one way only—MLA.
Works Cited must be alphabetical (MLA).
When quoting poetry, divide lines by a slash mark if in your paragraph.
No Explicator articles.
10. All citations in text must be typed in as part of the paper; no external formatting
11. Do not summarize the scholarly articles in your paper. Merely allow them to
comment on your paper.
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