Guidelines on the Research Paper

Seminar Paper (45%)

The primary goal of the essay is to provide compelling support for an argument on a topic relating to gender, sexuality, and/or feminism, an argument that is 1) innovative and unique to yourself, 2) informed by a range of feminist writers as well as previous scholarship, and 3) carves out your own critical position within one or more recurrent or pressing feminist debates.

Begin preparing for this essay by identifying a relevant topic of most interest to you, the topic that you most want to investigate closely and think through deeply.  If you have difficulty picking a topic, consider specific concepts from specific feminist theorists that we have read and consider how those concepts would apply to cultural phenomenon of especial interest to you (films, musical lyrics, books, artworks, etc.)  You can use the feminist readings that we have covered as a model for your own essay.  Consult the Feminist Theory anthology for background and context, including the index and lexicons.

You can recycle any of the work that you have generated through the homework assignments in the seminar paper itself: expanding one of the responses into a more formal and organized essay, incorporating the outside reading into the paper, or using discussion questions as a basis for further inquiry and investigation.  See the Electronic Reserves for the Class Handouts.

Paper Proposal (15%)

In the proposal, you will identify the main topic on which you will be focusing, the feminist debate of which that topic is most representative, your position with regards to the debate together with your provisional thesis about the topic, as well as the main 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 when citing them in the essay itself.

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 assist in getting productive feedback on the paper well in advance of the due date.  All in all, the proposal entails the following:

1. A paragraph clarifying your topic, its scope, its larger significance to feminist thought, and the particular feminist debate which it illuminates (you may be able to use this paragraph as your introductory paragraph in the essay itself);

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

3. A brief outline that indicates the way in which you will organize the essay by identifying the focus and main arguments of at least 4 different sections of the essay in four separate complete sentences, each listed in the order in which they will be discussed, each expressing positions directly related to your argument (though of course narrower in scope), and each combining with the others to demonstrate the overall direction that your argument will be taking over the course of the paper (You can include brief, bulleted supporting examples, issues, and/or quotes beneath some or all of these sentences if you like, but the most important thing to do is to articulate at least 4 of the sub-topics and sub-arguments that make up your larger thesis);

4. A paragraph-long account of how you will be using the one of the major works covered during the term (e.g. Mary Wollstonecraft or Judith Butler), including a) a survey of two main concepts upon which you will drawing, each expressed in your own words with quotes included for comparison, b) an explanation of how these concepts apply to your topic and inform your argument about it, and finally, c) an indication of how you might subtly remodel one of these concepts for your own purposes, whether in simply adapting them to a new context or by outright critiquing them in some fashion;

5. A paragraph-long account of how you will be using one of the optional readings and one of the required theorists covered during the term, including the same information as in #4 above;

6. A paragraph-long account of how you will use two works of scholarship that you have found on your own from any of the following academic databases: Project Muse, JSTOR, or MLA Bibliography (exclude book reviews or any other works under 10 pages).

7.  A concise synopsis of two of the three remaining sources, summarizing in at least one sentence the main concepts, arguments, or findings that you will be using for support or clarification, and then explaining in another sentence the connection to your topic and argument;

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

9.  An MLA-formatted Works Cited page listing 7 of the 8 sources required for the paper, as well as any other sources mentioned in the proposal.

Required Sources:

No websites count towards the minimum source requirements, although you can supplement the required sources with internet sources if they are appropriate and credible.  Altogether, you need to engage with, and directly quote, each of the following eight sources:

____1.   One of the major works (Wollstonecraft, Fausto-Sterling, Smith, or Butler);

____2.   One of the optional readings covered during the term;

____3.   One of the background readings covered during the term;

____4.   One of the required readings covered during the term;

____5.   A second required reading covered during the term;

____6.   Another major work, optional reading, or required reading covered during the term;

____7.   One work of scholarship found independently from any of the following academic databases: Project Muse, JSTOR, or MLA Bibliography (exclude any other works under 10 pages);

____8.   A second work of scholarship found in the same way.

Only those sources that you actually quote and 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 vaguely alluding to the general ideas found within them) and to make the connection to your own topic and argument explicit.

Research Presentation (5%)

On the last day of the term, Tuesday, June 23, you will give a conference-style presentation drawn from your research paper.  You will only have 6-8 minutes to present, which is equivalent to reading 3-4 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.

Formatting the Proposal and Paper

See the Researching Literature handout or the Sample Essay File for basic guidelines on research and citation, 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 include those sources listed alphabetically by that same name on Works Cited page.  (If there is no author, include the first few words of the title in the parenthetical citation and put those same words first in the Works Cited entry.)  You can model your citations on the hypothetical ones that follow, just make sure to start a new page entitled “Works Cited,” alphabetize the entries, use hanging indentions, 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:

Harris, Muriel.  “Talk to Me: Engaging Reluctant Writers.”  A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One to One.  Ed. Ben Rafoth.  New York: Heinemann, 2000.  24-34.

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.

Academic Journals:

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

Journals 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 <>.

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 graduate school; 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.

Important Reminders for the Proposal and Paper:

  ** The proposal must be at least 5 pages and the paper between 14 and 20 pages in length, not including the Works Cited page

  ** To ensure that you have the proper length, double check that you have the standard 1-inch margins (not 1¼- or 1½-inch margins, sometimes default) and that you have the page numbers within the 1-inch header, not in the body of the essay

  ** Use 12-point Times New Roman or Times font

  ** The proposal is due Fri. June 5, 9:30 AM, and the paper is due June 23 by class time

  ** Turn in two copies of the proposal and the paper, one hard copy to the departmental mailbox (612 Pray Harrold) and another digital copy to the Turn It In website: (password “feminist”)