Guidelines on the Research Essay

Important Requirements:

** The research proposal is due on March 29 by class time, with the research essay itself due in my English Department mailbox by 4:45 PM on April 23 (612 Pray Harrold).  If you finish the research essay early, drop it off in the mailbox during regular business hours any time up until the due date.

** You must submit two copies of each assignment to receive credit: one by hand and a second to Turn It In: (class #3061969; password “gothic”)

** The proposal must be at least 5 pages and the paper between 15 and 20 pages.  Do not count Works Cited pages towards the total length

** These are minimum, not approximate, lengths so unless your closing words fortuitously fall exactly at the end of the final page, the proposal will stop on page 6 and the paper on page 16 at the earliest, not midway through pages 5 or 15.

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

** Make sure to format correctly—and thus know the true length of—these assignments by double-checking that they have the following before turning them 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, non-indented parts of this handout)

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

___ Paragraphs double spaced, but without any extra spacing or additional spaces (such as around quotes, between paragraphs, or before or after the title)

** Turn in a large, manila-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope together with the essay by the due date if you want it returned to you with commentary.

Overview of the Research Project

Selecting the Texts: Begin by identifying the gothic novel that you want to focus on for the essay, which must be a close analysis of a single text covered in class (unless you have permission to cover another, non-required gothic work in advance).  English graduate students taking this course to fulfill the 18th/19th-century requirement must focus on a gothic work from one of those periods; WGST students must focus on issues of gender and/or sexuality found within a single gothic work.

Selecting Essay Topics: Make sure to write about something that you care about, something that you are especially interested in learning about and mulling over more deeply.  To generate ideas, review specific concepts from specific theorists who have most intrigued you, and then apply those same concepts one by one to specific gothic novels or specific aspects of those novels.  If necessary, reverse the process: identifying the most intriguing gothic novels and considering them from the point of view of the theorists or the theoretical concepts that we have covered one by one.  It helps to begin by identifying a main topic (or a main set of interrelated topics) to investigate within a novel before pressuring yourself to take a firm position on that topic or to know precisely what it is that fascinates you about it.  

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.  See the Electronic Reserves for the weekly handouts. 

Objectives of the Paper: The main goal is to provide compelling support for an argument on a topic relating to gothic literature by closely analyzing one gothic work in depth.  It must

1.  Be innovative, unique to yourself, well developed and well organized, and ultimately clear and convincing to an academic audience;

2.  Employ a range of course materials, as well as select outside scholarship, to persuade the reader, using concrete examples and relevant quotations from the texts to support your claims;

3.  Demonstrate that you have taken an informed yet independent position about an ongoing debate within gothic studies (See the “Introduction to the Gothic” in the ER, the gothic criticism covered in class, works listed in the bibliographies or the introductions of the novels, as well as questions on the Conjectural Response [/cr.pdf] for some possibilities).  

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 of the project clear, consistent, and manageable throughout.  The proposal also assists in getting productive feedback on your paper well in advance of the due date.  You can reuse portions of the proposal in the paper itself, so long as you integrate that material appropriately and smoothly into the flow of the essay.  Make sure to note down the page numbers whenever you quote something so that you can cite it in the essay itself easily.

The proposal must have each of the following:

1. A full paragraph a) identifying the gothic work about which you will be writing, b) explaining the main topic playing out within that work that you will be exploring, and c) clarifying the scope of your topic, its larger significance, and the key debate in gothic studies that your discussion of it will help to illuminate (you can potentially reuse this paragraph as the introduction of the essay);

2. A full paragraph with a) an explanation of your current position with regards to the debate and b) a clear sentence-length  statement of your provisional thesis, or main argument about the topic, at the end of the paragraph. (Any thesis is subject to revision as you consider the issues in more depth, so express this argument 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 together indicate the way in which you will organize the paper by identifying the focus and main arguments of four different sections.  Each must a) be a complete sentence, not a brief clause or fragment leaving your position ambiguous, b) be listed in the order in which it will appear in the essay as you unfold and develop your position, c) pinpoint a subtopic directly related to the essay’s main focus, though of course much narrower in scope, and finally d) clearly express an argument, a debatable yet provable claim helping to support the larger thesis. (You can append a fuller outline at the end of the proposal with additional examples, bulleted points, relevant quotes, etc.; however, that outline will not count towards the overall page length);

4. A full paragraph with an account of how you will be using one of the required theorists covered during the term (see Schedule) with a) two direct quotations exemplifying two of the concepts upon which you will be drawing, b) a paraphrase of each quotation expressed in your own words, and c) an explanation of how the ideas connect to your main topic and main text and influence your argument about them. (If you like, you can also explain how you will modify these concepts, whether in adapting them to a new context, revising them in some fashion, or outright contesting them);

5.  Another full paragraph explaining how you will be using two concepts from one of the optional theorists with the same information as in #4; namely, a pair of quotes, accompanying paraphrases, and a clear connection to the main topic/text for each;

6.  Another full paragraph explaining how you will be using two concepts (again with quotes, paraphrases, and explicit connections) from a work of peer-reviewed scholarship found on your own in any of the following databases and focusing directly on your gothic novel: JSTOR, Project Muse, or the MLA Bibliography(Exclude any book reviews, cursory works under 10 pages, or works published before 1970. Other articles might count if you show me copies with the source information and get permission to use them in advance);

7.  A brief synopsis of how you will be using one concept from either a second required theorist or a second outside source (just like that above) with the same information as in #4;

8.  Another brief synopsis of how you will be using one concept from either a third required theorist, second optional theorist, or a work in the Supplemental Folder of the Electronic Reserves with the same information as in #4;

9. Another brief synopsis of how you will be using one concept from a contextual or background source with the same information as in #4;

10. Note down at least two questions or concerns that you have about the research paper, such as confusion about the requirements, scholarship, historical context, theoretical terminology, or the potential (and perhaps conflicting) directions that your paper may take, as well as queries about any sources that you hope to use or want to have recommended to you;

11. List the MLA-formatted citations for all outside sources mentioned in the proposal.

The Research Paper (45%):

The only remaining requirement concerns the number and the types of sources that you have to cite in the essay.  At a minimum, you will need to quote each of the following sources:

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

____b.  A second required theorist;

____c.  One of the optional theorists;

____d.  A contextual or background source;

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

____f.  A second work of peer-reviewed scholarship or a source in the Supplemental Folder of the Electronic Reserves;

____g.  Another required or optional theorist;

____h.  Repeat either source #f or #g.

Remember to quote sources directly, integrate them logically into your essay, and make their relevance to your topic and argument clear.  When checking these sources off the checklist, keep in mind that the following do not count towards the minimum source requirements:

** Sources alluded to vaguely without specific passages quoted; 

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

** Websites (use only when credible without counting them towards the required sources); 

** Extracts in the Supplemental Folder or cursory articles under 10 pages;

** Book reviews or any sources besides the contextual/background sources published before 1970

Research Presentation (5%)

On the last day of the term, Monday, April 19, you will give a conference-style presentation drawn from your research paper.  You can pick any part of your essay to share with the class, but you will only have around 8 minutes to present, reading 3-4 pages of your essay aloud and then answering questions from a respondent.

Formatting the Proposal and Paper

You must make a decent attempt to format the paper according to MLA conventions—not obsessively so but generally so.  For basic guidelines on research and documentation, see Researching Literature, the Sample Essay File, and the MLA style guides online or in the ER.  

Insert parenthetical citations at the end of sentences with the page number or page range, as well as the author’s last name when not already specified in the sentence or previous citation, for example (Marx 55) or (55).  That same name last must correspond to a source listed alphabetically by last name in the Works Cited page.  Also disclose when quotes are taken secondhand from a third party, not from the original author (qtd. in Nelmes 55).  Use abbreviated titles for anonymous works or for multiple works by the same author (Capital 55) or (Marx, Capital 55). 

You can model the Works Cited page on the hypothetical citations below, but make sure to start a new page titled Works Cited (Cntl+Enter), alphabetize the entries, use hanging indentions (so names stand out), and double space.  The labels are unnecessary and only used for the sake of illustration.


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

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.  <>.

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.

Film or Video:

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

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.

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

Any instance of academic dishonesty or plagiarism 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, so make sure that your work is plagiarism-free before turning it in. 

Plagiarism, 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 under any circumstance, whether it be in 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 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.


[File last modified March 7, 2010]