Guidelines on the Research Paper

Important Requirements:

** The proposal is due Tuesday, July 28, and the paper is due Tuesday, August 18, both by class time

** Submit two copies of each assignment, one by hand during class and another to the Turn It In website: (class #2760395; password “cannibal”).  The hard copy will be graded only after the digital copy is posted to the website.

** Turn in a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the paper if you want it returned to you with commentary

** The research proposal must be no less than pages (for undergraduates) and 5 pages (for graduates).  The research paper must be no less than 12 pages (for undergraduates) and 15 pages (for graduates), not including the Works Cited page

** Any work that is too short (by however small a stretch) will not be accepted.  To ensure that you have the proper length, double check that your essay has

¾       The standard 1-inch margins, not 1¼- inch or 1½-inch margins (sometimes default)

¾       Page numbers inserted within the 1-inch margin, not within the body of the essay (do the numbering by hand, if necessary)

¾       Font of only 12 points, and either Times or Times New Roman, throughout the essay

¾       No extra spacing besides the double spacing, such as around titles, quotes, or paragraphs

The Research Paper (45%)

Rule number one: write on something that you very much want to write on and are especially interested in learning more about and mulling over more deeply.  If you have a secondary interest (sociology, anthropology, linguistics, political science, women’s studies) or another major, minor, or basic life ambition (e.g. teaching, social work, creative writing, activism), see if you can find a way to connect those other interests to the concerns of this class to further inspire and inform your paper. 

The primary goal of the essay is to provide compelling support for an argument on a topic and a text relating to cannibalism, cruelty, and/or consumption.  This argument must be

1)      Innovative, unique to yourself, well developed and organized, and ultimately clear and convincing to an academic audience (using concrete examples and relevant quotations);

2)      Effectively employ a range of course materials as well as outside scholarship for support;

3)      Show how you have carved out an independent position of your own within an ongoing debate within cultural studies (for example, how literature shapes the larger community, reflects or disguises social conditions, or enables transgendered or cross-cultural perception—see the Conjectural Response handout online [/cresp.pdf] for other possibilities).  

Begin preparing for this essay by identifying a relevant literary/filmic work and an issue of particular interest to you, the text and topic that you most want to investigate and explore in depth.  See the Related Literature (/tops.htm#lit) or Related Television and Film (/tops.htm#films) links for possible texts to write about, as well as the online Bibliography (/tops.htm#bibl) for the topics of interest that may be operating within them.  You can also consult the Cannibalism and the Colonial World anthology, including the index and bibliography, for additional context, background, and inspiration.

So long as you do not focus on the two novels that we will be reading in full and focusing on collectively and comprehensively as a class—She and Dracula—you can write about any of the texts required as reading for the course, especially if you have read the excerpted materials like Robinson Crusoe or Moby Dick in full.  You can also write on the works recommended on the schedule, filmic or literary, or write on other related works that you identify on your own (so long as you get permission to do so in advance).  Note: If you are a Women and Gender Studies student, the paper must have a substantial focus on women, sexuality, or gender; if you are a graduate student in English, the paper must have a substantial focus on eighteenth- or nineteenth-century literature.

You can recycle any of the ideas that you have generated through the homework assignments in the research paper: 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.  See the Electronic Reserves for the daily Class Handouts.  If you have difficulty picking a topic, consider specific concepts from specific theorists that we have read and then consider how those concepts would apply to specific texts of especial interest to you.  Use the scholarship that we have covered as a model for your own essay, such as Minaz Jooma’s “Robinson Crusoe, Inc(Corporates),” Caleb Crain’s “Lovers of Human Flesh,” or any of the chapters in Cannibalism and the Colonial World.

The Research Proposal (15%)

The proposal is less a formal writing assignment than a way to guide the research, organization, and conceptualization of your paper, keeping the focus clear, consistent, and manageable throughout the project.  It will also assist in getting productive feedback on your paper well in advance of the due date.  In the proposal, you will identify the main text and topic on which you will be focusing, the debate of which this topic and text are most representative, your provisional position with regards to that debate, as well as the various sources that you will be drawing on to support your claims.  You can reuse portions of the proposal in the essay itself, so long as you integrate that material smoothly and appropriately into the flow of the essay (make sure to note down the page numbers whenever you quote something so that you don’t have to hunt them down a second time for the essay).

All in all, the proposal entails the following:

1. A full paragraph identifying the text about which you will be writing and clarifying the topic that you will be exploring by means of it, including the scope, larger significance, and debates or issues that that topic illuminates or exemplifies (you may be able to use this in the introductory paragraph of the essay itself);

2. A two-sentence summary of your current position with regards to the debate or issue, together with a clear sentence-length articulation of your provisional thesis, or main argument about the topic (All good theses are subject to revision as you think about the issues in more depth, so express your thesis in a nutshell as best you can based on your existing knowledge without fretting about wedding yourself to that particular position forever);

3. A brief outline that indicates the way in which you will organize the paper by identifying the focus and main arguments of at least 4 different sections of the essay in 4 complete topic sentences.  Each sentence should express an argument directly related to the thesis (though of course narrower in scope), be listed in the order in which it will be discussed, and indicate the overall direction that your paper will be taking as you unfold and develop your position. (You can append a second outline to the proposal if you like—an extended outline with bulleted points, examples, supporting quotes, etc.—but you still need to include the four sub-arguments within the proposal itself.  Do not count the appended outline towards the required length);

4.  A one- or two-sentence synopsis of a significant comparison and/or contrast between the text on which you are focusing and one of the required literary works that we have covered—a connection that you plan to bring up at some point in the paper, if only in a general manner to elucidate your topic, such as in the introduction or conclusion;

5. A paragraph-long account of how you will be using two of the required theorists covered during the term (e.g. Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, or Edward Said), including a) a survey of at least two main concepts upon which you will be drawing, one from each theorist and both expressed in your own words with direct quotations underneath for comparison, b) an explanation of how each of these concepts relates to your paper topic and influences your argument about it.  (If you are a graduate student, you should try to explain whenever possible not only the connection between the concepts and your topic, but how you might modify these concepts for your own purposes, whether in simply adapting them to a new context, revising them in some fashion, or outright contesting or critiquing them);

6.  A two- or three-sentence synopsis of how you will be using one of the optional theorists covered during the term including the same information as in #4 above—namely, the paraphrase of a concept, a companion quote, and an express connection to the topic—however, if you are a graduate student, do the same except with two concepts from two different optional theorists in a full paragraph.  (Scholarly sources in the Supplemental Folder of the Electronic Reserves, or sources listed on the course Bibliography, can substitute for the optional readings, so long as they are complete articles or book chapters, not abridgments or extracts);

7a. A two- or three-sentence account (including, once again, a paraphrase, quote, and connection) of how you will use a work of peer-reviewed scholarship that you found on your own from any of the following academic databases: Project Muse, JSTOR, or the MLA Bibliography (exclude book reviews or other cursory works under 10 pages).  If you are a graduate student, do the same except with two such sources in a full paragraph.  (You can use other peer-reviewed articles acquired from other scholarly databases if you show me a copy and get permission in advance);

7b.  Graduate students only: A two- or three-sentence account (with paraphrase, quote, and connection) of how you will use one of the chapters in the Cannibalism and the Colonial World anthology (if the chapter is required or recommended as reading, make sure to read the chapter in full);

8.  Note down at least one question or concern that you have about the research paper itself, such as confusions about the requirements, the research, the historical context, the theoretical concepts, the potential (and perhaps conflicting) directions that your paper may take, or queries about sources that you hope to use or have recommended to you;

9.  Include MLA-formatted citations for any sources mentioned in the proposal that you found independently on your own.  If you are a graduate student, include an MLA-formatted Works Cited page listing all of the sources mentioned in the proposal (cite Electronic Reserves materials as webpages.)

Required Sources for the Research Paper:

No websites count towards the minimum source requirements, although you can supplement the required sources with internet sources if they are appropriate and credible.  Only those sources that you actually quote and logically integrate within the focus of your paper will count towards the research requirements, so make sure to engage with specific passages from your sources (rather than alluding vaguely to the general ideas found within them) and show the connection of those passages to your own topic and argument. 

** Undergraduate students need to engage with, and directly quote, each of the following seven sources at a minimum:

____a.    One of the required literary works (Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick, She, or Dracula);

____b.    One of the required theoretical works covered during the term (see the Schedule);

____c.    A second required theoretical work covered during the term;

____d.    One of the optional theoretical works covered during the term (see #6 for possible substitutions);

____e.    Another required or optional theoretical work;

____f.     One work of scholarship found independently from Project Muse, JSTOR, or the MLA Bibliography (see #7 for requirements and substitutions);

___ g.     A second work of scholarship found as above or listed on the course Bibliography.

** Graduate students need to engage with, and directly quote, each of the following nine sources at a minimum:

____a.    One of the required literary works (Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick, She, or Dracula);

____b.    One of the required theoretical works covered during the term (see the Schedule);

____c.    A second required theoretical work covered during the term;

____d.    One of the optional theoretical works covered during the term (see #6 for possible substitutions);

____e.    A second optional theoretical work covered during the term;

____f.     A third required or optional theoretical work covered during the term;

____g.    A fourth required or optional theoretical work covered during the term;

____h.    One work of scholarship found independently from Project Muse, JSTOR, or MLA Bibliography (see #7 for requirements and substitutions);

____i.     A second work of scholarship found as above or listed on the course Bibliography.

Academic Integrity

Copying the homework of peers, taking credit for essays that you find on the internet, or recycling your own essays written for other classes for double credit are all forms of academic dishonesty, and for very good reason.  Each interferes with the sole purpose, and the unique benefit, of going to college; namely, the unfettered exercise of an informed mind.  The worst form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism, which, put simply, is taking either the ideas or the words of another person and reusing them as if they are your own. 

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

Any instance of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic 0% grade for the assignment.  Any second instance will result in outright failure of the course.  There is no excuse for academic dishonesty, nor any exceptions to this policy.

Formatting the Proposal and Paper

See the Researching Literature handout or the Sample Essay File for basic guidelines on research and documentation, as well as the information on MLA style online or in the Electronic Reserves.  You must make at least a decent attempt to format the paper according to MLA conventions—not obsessively so but generally so.  For example, provide parenthetical citations at the end of sentences with the page number and author’s last name for any quotations, e.g. (Marx 55), and then list those sources by those same names alphabetically on the Works Cited page.  If there is no author identified, put the abbreviated title in the parentheses instead (Capital 55) and alphabetize by that title in the Works Cited entry.  If you quote authors secondhand from sources that they have not actually written, put “qtd. in” before the page number to acknowledge that you are getting the expression indirectly from a third party and have not consulted the original source for yourself (qtd. in Marx 55). 

You can model your citations in the Works Cited page on the hypothetical ones that follow, just make sure to start a new page entitled Works Cited (Cntl+Enter), alphabetize the entries and remove the descriptions (books journals, etc.), use hanging indentions of ½ inch so the last names stand out, and double space the paragraphs:


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

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.

Cross-listing to an Anthology:

Kristeva, Julia.  “Powers of Horror.”  Richter 1666-78.

Richter, David H., ed. Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007.

Journal Articles:

Duvall, John N. “The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated Mediation in DeLillo’s White Noise.”  Arizona Quarterly 50.3 (1994): 127-53.

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.

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 <>.

Research Presentation (5%)

On the last day of the term, Tuesday, August 18, you will give a conference-style presentation drawn from your research paper.  You will have only 5 minutes to present, which is equivalent to reading 2 1/2 pages of text aloud (2 minutes per page is the golden rule).  After the presentation, you will answer the questions of at least one respondent.