American Lit. and
The research paper is finally here!!! Simmer down, now! Control your euphoria! Did you really think we would skip this project?? So now it is here, along with gorgeous weather. Well, at least one thing is true. Now it is your job to focus on the task at hand…compare and contrast two American poems through a parallel theme. Just how do you do that? Read on and find out…
Traditionally, the words “research paper” tends to elicit negative responses from students. Although this is a common occurrence, it does not have to be that way. If you choose your poems carefully and prepare yourself regularly, this task is very manageable, very practical, and it might even be rewarding!
Research papers are incredibly helpful to English students, for they require a great deal of reading and writing. However, they also push you to higher limits as they fulfill these additional objectives:
· To practice your library research skills
· To determine the credibility of sources
· To familiarize you with correctly borrowing and citing information
· To teach you how to correctly weave direct quotes into your writing
· To hone your analytical and critical thinking skills
· To expose you to writers and works that we simply do not have time to study
· To emphasize the importance of following directions
This is a formal paper that requires a thesis (a statement which you will prove). It is not a report; rather, it is an analytical study of literature. For this assignment, you will have to critically analyze two poems for a parallel theme. Once that theme is identified, you must compare and contrast how it is presented in the poems. Discuss the similarities and differences in how both poems address that particular theme. Your opinions are varied highly; however, to help justify them, you will also be required to support them with the opinions of professional critics. Note that this paper is your analysis of the poems, not somebody else’s. You are merely borrowing professional criticism to help support your own opinions of the poems. You are a critic, so you will be expected to analyze the poems critically and successfully support your opinions of the poem.
In our first trip to the library, you will be required to select two poems that can be analyzed for a parallel theme. The poems must be by American poets. They cannot be poems that have been studied in class, or that will be studied shortly. The poems can be by two different authors or the same author – as long as you can analyze a common theme. Different students can use poems by the same author, but they cannot use the same poems. To avoid duplicating poem study, poems will be approved on a first come, first serve basis (if you did your homework, this will not be a problem as you should have a list of several poems of interest). You must have those two poems approved before you leave the library. (I reserve the right to deny any poem or theme if duplication appears likely).
Here are some suggestions for locating and selecting poems:
· Search for poems about topics of interest (i.e. sports, war, relationships,
equal rights, etc.)
· Search for poems involving themes of interest (i.e. love, appearance vs. reality death, oppression, etc.)
· Search for poems from a literary movement of interest (i.e. Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Realism, Modernism, etc.)
· Search for poems by a particular author you like
· Browse the poetry database on the library computer desktop
· Peruse the poetry section, looking at anthologies from single authors or collections of poems by subject matter
· Scan the critical review books and desktop databases to see which poems have a significant amount of literary criticism.
Locating Secondary Sources:
After you have had the chance to read your two poems (more than once!) and think about their parallels, it is time to research the secondary sources for more ideas. Go through the books and databases listed above to locate relevant criticism. When you have found secondary sources that might help you, photocopy the important pages of the source, including the title page for later bibliographic use. Any pertinent bibliographic information that is not on the copies must be written in by you – this is your responsibility. (Also copy the poems!) Read through these analyses and think of a preliminary research question. This question should center on the similarities and differences on the portrayal of a certain theme in both works (More on that later…)
At the end of the second library visit, you must submit those copies of the secondary sources, as well as all pertinent bibliographic information. You will need TWO secondary sources. If you have more than two secondary sources, hold on to them and decide which ones provide the best support for your thesis (obviously, you must wait until you have formulated a thesis before evaluating your sources. You will probably narrow your source selection when you are taking notes on writing the first rough draft – that is okay).
If you complete all of these tasks during our time in the library, you should begin the note-taking process. Closely read your secondary sources and highlight relevant criticism. If you do not think you have enough criticism, or if you think the criticism is not good enough, then look for more. It is better to have too much and weed out, than to have too little and be forced to do more research later. (Besides, the research guides your thought process. If you find multiple critical review of a particular theme that is different from your original plan, you might want to consider changing your research question to include this new theme).
We are only in the library as a class for two half blocks. If you came to the library session prepared, this will be enough time for you to locate the relevant information and copy it. You must read the research closely at a later date – be sure to be in the “gather” mode while in the library. You can always go back to the library on your own time if you need to, and this will be the case even for those of you who came in well prepared. However, there is ample time to search and collect the necessary literary criticism while we are in the library for two half blocks. Work diligently and responsibly! Get it done right the first time.
The Rest of the
You will be walked through this process as we go along. Each step will be discussed before moving on to the next one. The text selection and secondary source selection is the first step. After our visits, you will be taught what to do next. Therefore, focus on doing this first step as best as you can.
The final product will be between two and four pages in length double-spaced. It must be 12 point font, Times New Roman. It will be devoted to proving your thesis with the help of textual examples and literary criticism. Therefore, you will be required to incorporate at least six direct quotes into the body of your essay (include no more than eight. Focus on your discussion of the works and support it with textual examples). Direct quotes should come from all sources. Utilize everything.
“When You Come to
the Fork in the Road, Take It”
Use Yogi’s words to help you along. Assertiveness, diligence, and responsibility will make this process quite manageable. If you have a question, ask it or go find the answer. If you are unsure of something, become sure of it. Procrastination is the root of term paper evil! Be the Ant, not the Grasshopper. Get the parts of the paper done on time. Don’t let the dream of warm weather get you off track – you are almost done! You are almost juniors – finish strong then coast through your summer vacation!
Throughout this process, please feel free to consult with me at any time about any concern. You can also email be at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you indicate your block as the subject.
Research Topic Suggestions
Angelou, Maya Lowell, Robert
Benet, Stephen Vincent MacLeish, Archibald
Brooks, Gwendolyn Masters, Edgar Lee
Berry , Wendell Moore, Marianne
Bryant, William Cullen Merrill, James
Ciardi, John Nash, Ogden
Cullen, Countee Nemerov, Howard
Cummings, E.E. Plath, Sylvia
Crane, Hart Poe, Edgar Allan
Dickey, James Pound, Ezra
Dickinson, Emily Rich, Adrienne
Dove, Rita Robinson, Edwin A.
Dunbar, Paul Lawrence Roethke, Theodore
Eliot, T.S. Stafford, William
Freneau, Philip Sandburg, Carl
Frost, Robert Sarton, May
Ginsberg, Allen Sexton, Anne
Giovanni, Nikki Shapiro, Karl
Hillerman, Tony Taylor, Edward
Hughes, Langston Teasdale, Sarah
Jarrell, Randall Walcott, Derek
Larrick, Nancy Whitman, Walt
Williams, William Carlos
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