Guidelines on the Research Proposal and Term Paper


Important Requirements:


** The research proposal is due both by email (abbcoy at and as a hard copy on November 20.

** The term paper itself is due both by email (abbcoy at and as a hard copy on December 18. If you want commentary on your paper, bring a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

** The proposal must be at least 1500 words (1800 words for graduate students) and the term paper at least 2000 words (2400 words for graduate students).  Do not count Works Cited pages towards the required length. 

** These are word counts minimum, not approximate, so unless the final word fortuitously falls on exactly at the required 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 by a few pages if you like (up to 5 further pages for graduate students). 

Overview of the Research Project

Selecting the Texts and Main Topic: The essay must be a close analysis of one of the required Hitchcock films listed on the course schedule (/sched.htm), as compared to and/or contrasted with another of the required Hitchcock films. It must focus primarily, though not exclusively, on a psychoanalytic dimension of the films. The main topic of the essay will thus be not the films themselves in general, but some particular psychological aspect about those films relating to the works of Sigmund Freud that we have read over the course of the semester.

To generate ideas, review specific concepts from specific Freud readings that have most intrigued you and then apply those concepts one by one to the possible Hitchcock films about which you want to write.  Alternately, reverse the process: identifying the most intriguing films and then considering them from the point of view of particular Freudian concepts 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 discussion questions as a basis for further inquiry and investigation. 

Objectives of the Paper: There are five criteria for the essay, each weighted equally at 20% of the total grade:

1) Selecting an interesting, important, and innovative essay topic relating to the Hitchcock films and Freud works, and clarifying its significance to your reader;

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

3) Substantiating your argument about the topic (that is, your thesis) with an array of concrete and convincing details about the films and readings that other 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 either Freud or Hitchcock 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.  Your proposal 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 for whatever you quote passages in the proposal so that you can easily cite those same passages 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 Freudian 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 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 supposing that you do not count that outline towards the overall page length of the proposal;

4. A full paragraph explaining how you will use one of the required Freud books 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. One short paragraph explaining how you will use a work by Freud not required as reading with one quotation and the same paraphrasing, connection-to-the-films/topic as above;

7. A second short paragraph with the same information as above explaining how you plan to use David Sterritt’s Films of Alfred Hitchcock;

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;

9. Graduate students only: Repeat Step #4 with one of the optional theorists instead of Freud, and then repeat Step #5 (a second work of peer-reviewed scholarship).

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 Freud books (see the Schedule);

____b. A second required Freud work (either a book or essay);

____c. A third work by Freud not required as reading (some are available in the Electronic Reserves);

____d. A chapter from David Sterritt’s Films of Alfred Hitchcock;

____e. One of the works of criticism (see the Schedule);

____f. A work of peer-reviewed scholarship focusing on Hitchcock or Freud (see #6 above for requirements);

____g. Graduate students only: one of the optional theorists (see the Schedule);

____h. Graduate students only: a second work of peer-reviewed scholarship.

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 relevance to your topic and argument clear.  When checking sources off the checklist, keep in mind that the following do not count towards the requirements:

**   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:

**   Extracts in the Electronic Reserves or cursory articles from databases under 12 pages. 

Research Presentation (5%)

On the last day of the term, Tuesday December 18: (11:00-12:30), 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, whether it be by drawing on Wikipedia for mundane (and quite possibly specious) information or channeling the most holy of holy books for heavenly inspiration. 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.