Guidelines on the Research Proposal and Paper

Important Requirements:

** The research proposal is due by email attachment (abbcoy at by March 28.

** The term paper itself is due by email attachment (abbcoy at on April 23. If you want commentary on your paper, bring a hard copy, as well as a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

** The proposal must be at least 1750 words and the term paper must be at least 2450 words (respectively 5 and 7 pages, properly formatted).

** These are word counts minimum, not approximate, so unless the final word fortuitously falls on exactly at the required word length, you will have to extend the paper slightly.

** Assignments under the minimum length, by however small a stretch, will not be accepted, although they can extend beyond that length if you like.

Overview of the Research Project

Selecting the Two Films and Main Topic: Begin by identifying the two films listed on the course schedule (/sched.htm) that you most want to closely analyze by comparing/contrasting in the essay. The paper must focus primarily, though not exclusively, on a narrative dimension of the films. The main topic of the essay will consequently be not the films themselves, but some particular aspect of those films relating to narrative. That could include narrative in the most obvious sense—specific formal techniques used to convey the story, transport the viewer, or manipulate the reception of events—to narrative taken in the abstract. Any of the following topics would thus be germane, singularly or in combination:

Form/Content: inspirations for the production, consumption, structure, or content of narrative in the films; correlations between the artistic, economic, or cultural value of the films and the manner in which they are narrated or received (coded and decoded); conventions or intermixtures of genres in the films and their effects on viewer expectations, reactions, or future fluencies; intersections of auditory, visual, linguistic, bodily, artistic, social, or subcultural sign systems in cinema;

Point of View: implications of the films being told from one point of view rather than another, or from more than one point of view; causes and consequences of the films putting some aspects of the story in the foreground and others in the background, such as having some characters integral and others peripheral to the story; how the perspectives through which the films are focalized or filtered effect the social, political, or cultural status of those about whom they are told; success in intermixing different points of view in the films and in conveying a multifaceted or multidimensional story; degree to which the films impose a single understanding of the story or its events, or let viewers participate in the creation of that meaning through imagination and interpretation;

Subjectivity/Identity: social or subjective constructions and doublings of identity, that is, the story of self or the story of society as presented and/or disconcerted in the films; how cinema feeds on or transforms the stories that we tell about ourselves, about our culture, or about other people in other places; influences of the films on the ways that viewers imagine (or re-imagine) the national or global community, or some subset within it, for example imaginings and (re)presentations of self and desire, family, ethnicity, embodiment, and class; the degree to which the films gender or sexualize characters and viewers, making them either male or female (or neither), such as when depicting androgyny, masculinity, femininity, sexuality, transgenderism, or homo-/heteroeroticism; degree to which the films solicit, legitimize, or stigmatize affection, bonding, eroticism, desire, and/or love;

Ideology: the work that the films perform upon the audience, shaping (or trying to shape) the behavior, identity, attitudes, or fantasies of those viewing them; cultural discourses, ingrained beliefs, or psycho-social “patterns of fascination” that the films exploit for emotional, economic, or political effect (Mulvey); representation in the films both in the sense of representation itself (rehearsed or mass-reproduced images) and re-presentation, the production of impressions as reality or the actualization of fantasy as truth; degree to which the films redeploy entrenched stereotypes or tropes of marginalized people or prompt interpersonal and cross-cultural understanding; ideologies of race, class, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, or gender that the films reinforce or seek to contest;

Textual Mediations: underlying motivations or forces explaining the distortions, censorship, ambiguities, ambivalences, contradictions, or gaps found in the films or in the tales told within or about them; dialectical tensions between dominate, emergent, or marginalized discourses and points of view found within the films; the ways in which the films reflect, alleviate, or counteract historical or economic forces and transformations in the larger society; the ways in which the films might encourage or discourage individual transformation or social change; layers within, multiplicity of, or incongruity and antagonism between different narratives found within the films, due to material, historical, social conditions or otherwise; intertextual resonances that the films have with other texts or the intertextual afterlife that they have upon each other or upon other texts in turn.

To generate ideas, review specific concepts from specific readings that we have read over the course of the term and then apply those concepts one by one to the possible films on which you may want to write. Alternately, reverse the process: identifying the most intriguing films and then considering them from the point of view of particular readings one by one.

You can recycle any of the ideas that you have generated through your homework assignments in the paper itself: expanding one of the responses into a more formal and organized essay, incorporating the optional readings whenever pertinent, or using the discussion questions as a basis for further inquiry and investigation.

Objectives of the Paper: The criteria for the essay will be weighted equally at 20% of the total grade:

1) Selecting an interesting, important, and innovative essay topic relating to film narrative, and clarifying its significance to your reader;

2) Reflecting on that topic and the nuances of the films themselves with concerted, critical, and creative attention, keeping your argument consistent, focus coherent, and writing organized throughout the essay;

3) Substantiating your argument about the topic (that is, your thesis) with an array of concrete and convincing details, details that other, less conscientious, readers may have overlooked;

4) Discussing both the filmic and theoretical texts accurately and expertly, showing how each relate to your topic and support your argument;

5) Demonstrate that you have taken an informed yet independent position about an ongoing debate within narrative studies influenced by the scholarship of other critics.

The Research Proposal (5%)

The proposal is less a formal writing assignment than a way to guide the organization and conceptualization of your paper, keeping the focus of your project clear and manageable throughout. It also assists in getting feedback on the paper well in advance of the due date. You can reuse portions of the proposal in the paper itself, so long as you integrate them appropriately and smoothly into the flow of the essay. Make sure to include page numbers whenever you quote passages in the proposal so that you can easily cite them in the paper.

The proposal must have each of the following:

1. A full paragraph a) identifying the two films about which you will be writing, b) explaining the main topic that you will be exploring by means of examining them, and c) clarifying the significance of this topic both in general and in relation to narrative theory (you can perhaps reuse much of this paragraph as the introduction of the essay);

2. A sentence-length statement of your provisional thesis, or main argument about the topic (any argument is subject to revision as you consider the issues in more depth, so express it as best you can based on your current thinking without fretting about wedding yourself to it forever);

3. A list of 4 topic sentences that each a) clarify how your films resemble or differ in terms of your topic, b) indicate the significance of those similarities and differences (why does it matter that they are one way or another, or that each share the same quality?), and c) demonstrate how you will organize your essay by identifying the sub-arguments for four of its sections. Note: each topic sentence must be a complete sentence (not a brief clause or fragment); be listed in the order in which it will appear; be related to the main topic (while of course narrower in scope); and express a debatable yet plausible position. You can append a longer outline with brief, bulleted points or quotes at the end of the proposal if you like, supposing that you do not count the outline towards the overall page length of the proposal;

4. A full paragraph explaining how you will use one of the required theorists listed on the course schedule (/sched.htm), including a) two direct quotations exemplifying one or two concepts upon which you will be drawing, b) a paraphrase of each quotation with the concept(s) expressed in your own words, and c) an account of how each quotation relates to your films and main topic;

5. A second full paragraph explaining how you will use article of peer-reviewed scholarship from any of the following databases: Project Muse, JSTOR, or the MLA (include two quotations, the same information as above, and an MLA-formatted citation for this and any other outside scholarship).Textbooks, book reviews, course materials, cursory works under 10 pages, or works published before 1980 do not count;

6. A third full paragraph explaining how you will use one of the chapters in the Narrative Reader, (a chapter not required as reading for class), with two quotations and the same paraphrasing, connection-to-the-films/topic as above;

7. One short paragraph explaining how you will use one of the optional theorists listed on the course schedule (/sched.htm), with one quotation and the same paraphrasing, connection-to-the-films/topic as above;

8. Note down at least one question or concern that you have about the research paper, such as about the research requirements, theoretical terminology, or the potential (and perhaps conflicting) directions that your essay may take.

Requirements for the Term Paper (25%):

In the actual essay, you will have to quote the following sources directly (they can be the same sources from the proposal, plus a few more):

____a.    One of the required theorists (see the Schedule);

____b.    A second required theorist;

____c.    One of the optional theorists;

____d.    A chapter from the Narrative Reader not required for class reading;

____e.    A work of peer-reviewed scholarship (see #6 above for requirements);

____f.     Another required or optional theorist, or a work of criticism available in the Supplemental Reading folder of the Electronic Reserves;

____g.    A second work like any of the sources above (required, optional, peer-reviewed, or supplemental reading).

You can cite additional sources if you like, but you must cite those above at a minimum. Remember to integrate quotations logically into your essay and make their connection to your topic and argument clear. When checking sources off the checklist, keep in mind that the following sources do not count:

**   Sources alluded to vaguely without specific passages quoted;

**   Quotes inserted randomly without connection to nearby sentences or the main topic;

**   Internet sites (use only when credible without counting as required sources);

**   The background reading or literature listed on the schedule:

**   Cursory articles or extracts under 10 pages.

Research Presentation (5%)

On the last day of the term, Tuesday April 23, you will give a presentation drawn from your research paper. You can pick any part of your essay to share with the class, but you will have only 4 minutes to present, reading around 1 page of your essay aloud and then answering questions from a respondent.

Academic Integrity

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 lacking 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.

Formatting the Proposal and Paper

Make an attempt to format the paper according to MLA conventions, not obsessively so but generally so. Insert parenthetical citations at the end of sentences with the page number, as well as the author’s last name if not already specified in the sentence, for example (Marx 55) or (55). That name must correspond to a source listed alphabetically in the Works Cited page. Acknowledge when quotes are secondhand, not from a source that the quoted author actually wrote (qtd. in Nelmes 55), and order the list by authors’ names, not those of editors.

You can model the Works Cited page on the hypothetical one below, but make sure to start a new page, alphabetize the entries, and use double spacing.


Gillespie, Paula. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Stanford UP, 2000. Print.

Journal Articles Found through a Database:

Johnson, Kirk. “The Mountain Lions of Michigan.” Endangered Species Update 19.2 (2002): 27-45. Expanded Academic Index. Halle Lib., Ypsilanti, MI. 26 Nov. 2002. Web.

Chapters from an Anthology or Collection:

Freud, Sigmund. “Medusa’s Head.” Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 1109-11. Print.

Film or Video:

Mean Girls. Dir. Mark S. Waters. Perf. Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and Tina Fey. Paramount, 2004.

Work from the Electronic Reserves (or Other Website):

Haffe, Joquest, and Melissa Smith. “Bioethics: A Third World Issue.” Eastern Michigan University Electronic Reserves. 15 Dec. 2007 Web.