Guidelines on the Research Essay

Overview: The research essay, which is worth 20% of your final grade, must be 4½ pages (properly formatted) and focus on the representation of sexuality and/or gender in two songs of your choice. 

The paper is due on November 21 by class time, both a hard copy and a digital copy at Turn It In ( A brief outline identifying the songs is due on October 24, and a description of your sources is due on October 31 (see the schedule). 

*** NOTE: I will need a copy of the lyrics for both songs as well as a web link to audio versions (for example, on YouTube). Alternately, you can copy audio files on disk, send them by email (abbcoy at, or briefly lend me a CD.

Researching the Essay: In this essay, you must offer a critical analysis and close reading of the two songs, and support your argument about them through outside research.  Begin by consulting the book collections on reserve at the library, the table of contents of which are available in the Electronic Reserves (ER): Introducing the New Sexuality Studies, Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, or A Queer World. You will need to directly quote, accurately describe, and critically discuss at least four quotes from two distinct authors/chapters in these collections over the course of your essay (the introductions do not count, only the actual chapters).

Composing the Essay: This essay, unlike the responses or essay exams, must be polished and well written.  Make sure to finish a draft in sufficient time to review, revise, and perhaps re-conceptualize it.  Re-reading the “Comparison: An Analytic Tool” handout (ER) may be helpful.

The essay must demonstrate critical thinking about the songs and offer unique interpretations of them that you have come up with on your own.  The paper should have no plot summary: assume that your readers are already familiar with the songs just not well versed in the specific details that you are highlighting to support your argument. 

The thesis (at the bottom of the introductory paragraph) and topic sentences (the first sentences of the paragraphs to follow, excluding the conclusion) should each express arguments with which other intelligent people can disagree.  The concluding paragraph should not simply repeat what you have already said in the essay, but rather explain the implications and importance of your argument once proven—for example by enlarging the focus of your analysis from the specific songs to the larger world beyond.   

Presentations: The presentations will be very relaxed and informal: the desks will be arranged in a large circle so that you can present your findings without having to stand up or project your voice uncomfortably.  You will have roughly 5 minutes to talk about the main topic and argument of your paper, giving either one quotation or one other kind of  example that you discuss in the essay by way of support.  The presentation will be worth 25 points, so it is important to attend class on the day of your presentation.  Mark the date on the Schedule of the syllabus so that you remember to come.  The schedule is as follows:

Groups 1-3

November 14

Groups 3-5

November 16

Group 5-7

November 21

Help with the Writing: In lieu of regular class during the week of November 7-9, you will meet with me one on one in my office (Pray Harrold 603J) to consult about the paper.  See the Schedule [sched.pdf] for your appointment time.

You can also avail yourself of the University Writing Center located in Halle 115 (M-Th 9-6; Fri 11-4) or the Academic Projects Center located in Halle 116 (M-The 11-5). The International Student Resource Center in Alexander 200 (487-0370) is dedicated to second-language students from abroad. 

Requirements for the Essay: No papers will be accepted that are too short (that is under 4½ pages), sent by email attachment, or not submitted to Turn It In.  Make sure to format your paper correctly and thus know its true length, double-checking that it has each of the following before turning it in:

___ Either Times or Times New Roman font throughout (as with most of this handout)

___ Exactly 12-point font throughout (also like most of this handout)

___ Standard 1-inch margins, not 1¼- or 1½-inches (as non-bulleted parts of this handout)

___ Page numbers inside margins, not within main document (insert by hand if necessary)

___ Double-spacing without any additional spacing (such as extra points or lines around quotes, between paragraphs, or before or after the title)

Extra-Credit: There will be a significant amount of extra credit if you go over the minimum length by writing six full pages properly formatted.  I will either drop an absence, should you have one too many, or increase your final grade by 3%.

Plagiarism: You must acknowledge when you make use of the concepts and/or expressions of other people without any exception under any circumstance. When describing the ideas of someone else in your own words, make sure to signal as such (e.g., “So and so says X … ”); most importantly, when inserting the words of someone else into your own writing, make sure to credit that person for the passage and place quotation marks on either side (e.g., So and so says “X”).

Writing that lacks these acknowledgements will pass as your own by default, and any writing that thus seems to be your own, without actually being your own, will be plagiarizing the original source. All instances of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic 0% grade for the assignment; second instances will result in outright failure of the course. There is no excuse for academic dishonesty, nor will there be any exceptions to this policy. Make sure that your work is plagiarism-free before turning it in.