Analyzing One of the Works in the Textbook
For the term paper, students are asked to write a researched essay of at least 1,100 words analyzing one of the works in the textbook. Any single work from the textbook is acceptable; students are not limited to assigned readings. Students will utilize citations from a minimum of five academic secondary sources. Essays should focus on making a debatable claim and supporting that claim with reasons and evidence. In the case of a literary analysis the claim will concern the theme of the selection and the choices the author made in producing the work. Some possible questions students might ask in trying to find a thesis for their essays: • How did the author’s biography influence the text? • Does the text depart from the conventions of the period or movement with which it is associated in any remarkable way? • How does the text exemplify the values of the movement with which it is associated? • What literary predecessors influenced the text? • In what surprising or interesting ways did the author utilize literary devices? The Term Paper is longer than the midterm and is expected to go into greater depth in analyzing the text. The term paper may be an expansion of the midterm if that expansion produces a deeper insight about the text. Things to Remember: 1.Analysis utilizes argument and explanation. All true arguments have at least three ingredients: They make a claim, they provide reasons for the audience to accept the claim, and they provide evidence in support of the reasons. It is not sufficient for students to merely summarize the work. It is important for students to remember that the analysis is also an explanation of a work. An essay making the claim that abortion is wrong, for example, is not an analysis of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl.” An essay that puts forward a claim explaining how the mother’s advice on abortion relates to the theme of “Girl” is a literary analysis. 2.Claims often come from questions. The thesis question is usually where students begin when writing an essay. If a choice an author makes in one of the readings—and every aspect of the readings is the result of a choice, consciously or unconsciously made—strikes a student as strange or interesting, he or she should make note of it, and ask what motivated that choice and how that choice ties in with the theme of the piece. The answer the student comes up with after adequate research and reflection is his or her claim. 3.Claims must be Debatable. The major claim made in the essay is called the thesis statement. The thesis statement must be debatable, meaning that it is possible for a “reasonable person” to agree or disagree with it. The claim can’t be an objective fact. The claim that Hamlet and Horatio attended the University of Wittenberg together is not debatable. The claim that Hamlet really loved Ophelia is debatable, and the position taken on such a claim can have a meaningful impact on the reader’s understanding of the work’s theme. 4.Reasons must be relevant to the claim. There should be a logical connection between the claim and the reason. This logical connection is sometimes called the warrant or bridge. Students are encouraged to examine the assumptions that underlie their arguments to make sure that they are sound. 5.Evidence can be textual or contextual. This is just a fancy way of saying that in supporting your argument, you can draw both directly on the work itself, or the text, and on information about factors surrounding the text, or the context. Biographical or historical information is contextual. For example, if a student were trying to understand the theme of a book titled The Big Stupid Badger who Couldn’t Do Anything Right, it might be useful to study the context the piece appeared in and discover that the local Mayor was nicknamed “The Badger.” 6. Primary and secondary sources are used as evidence. The primary source is the text itself, meaning the work of prose, poetry, or drama the student is examining. Secondary sources are written about the text or context, and include scholarly articles, biographies, and histories. Sources that focus on explication, such as shmoop and sparknotes, are not counted toward your source-count requirements. 7.All citations must be documented. Students in ENGL 1302 are required to use MLA documentation. This means using intext citation and quotation marks whenever a source’s words are used, or in-text citation whenever a source’s ideas are summarized or paraphrased. It also means including a works cited page with MLA entries for all cited sources. Academic honesty is extremely important and the consequences for plagiarism reflect that. The works cited page does not count toward the essay’s Kocurek 4 word-count requirement. Students are encouraged to email me any questions they may have and to utilize my office hours. Your questions will help you to do better work and me to give better guidelines in the future. For more information on writing about literature: • Review chapters 1-8 of Compact Literature. • See this guide: http://www.roanestate.edu/owl/elementslit.html Due: See our class calendar for assignment due date. Word Count: 1,100 Minimum Works Cited: 5 Minimum (2 Print)
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