Writing about Literature

English 227

Winter 2004


Guidelines on the Research Essay on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest


Due Date:  April 26, 2004, 12:00 PM.  Drop your essay in my mailbox in the English Department, 612 Pray Harrold, or slide it under my office door, 603G Pray Harrold.  Also leave a self-addressed, stamped manila envelope if you want commentary on your essay.


Length:  Your essay must be a minimum of seven pages.  If your essay is shorter, the grade will go down proportionately: 25% for 5¼ pages, 50% for 3½ pages, etc.  You can, however, exceed this page limit as much as your argument might require. 


Formatting:  Your essay must be typed, double spaced, and formatted according to the writing conventions found in The Elements of Style and the Short Guide to Writing About Literature.  The key thing to remember: do not try to make the paper appear longer than it actually is.  Use a standard, twelve-point font, only one-inch margins, and regularly sized paragraphs, and altogether avoid extra spaces around your name, title, or paragraphs.  Save a copy of your essay both on a disk and in print before turning it in to me.


Citations:  The essay must have a Works Cited page, formatted according to MLA (Modern Language Association) conventions.  A handout on MLA formatting is available in the Electronic Reserves; it is also detailed quite extensively in the Short Guide to Writing About Literature.  MLA documentation requires parenthetical citations — that is, the author’s last name and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence, e.g. (Said 55) — as well as the Works Cited page, wherein you list the sources that you have quoted, which may be significantly fewer than those sources that you have only consulted.  Common citations are as follows, only they should also be alphabetized and double-spaced:


Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner.  The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring.  Boston: Allyn Press, 2000.


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

Chapters in 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.

Research Requirements:  You must consult at least five sources: one of the historical works located in the critical edition of The Tempest and not otherwise covered in class as required reading, one work of literary criticism found in the same edition and also not covered in class, one historical article, chapter, or book relating to your topic and found through your own research, and finally two scholarly articles or chapters from scholarly books that you have also discovered independently.  You must significantly engage with at least one of these secondary materials in the essay itself, either by applying the author’s argument in an innovative fashion to the primary text or by using the primary text to complicate or even contest the argument.  No internet materials will count for these minimum source requirements, although of course articles found through the Halle’s online databases are fine, if not ideal, to use.  Since you will only have room to consult a few authors directly in the paper, pick your sources wisely in terms of relevance and substance.  


Databases:  Not only is the MLA database the most important resource to consult for a well-researched essay, but it also is extremely easy to use.  See the link on the Halle library’s homepage for Databases (http://portal.emich.edu/remote.htm) and look for “MLA Database.”  Several databases, e.g. FirstSearch and Wilson, are linked directly through this database, making many full-text scholarly articles (but by no means all) readily available online.  Two other excellent databases to consult are Project Muse and JSTOR, also available on the “Databases” web page.  In addition, you will have to find some articles in person in the library in order to have the most relevant and interesting material for your paper.  The MLA will refer you to these materials as well, whether they are in a book or anthology or in one of the many fine journals that are (as yet) unavailable online.  See the “Recommended Databases for Literature” for further information about using the databases and locating research materials.  It is available both online and in the Electronic Reserve: http://people.emich.edu/acoykenda/demo.htm.


Essay Topic:  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 (linguistics, sociology, anthropology, political science) or another major, minor, or basic life ambition (e.g. teaching, social work), see if you can find a way to tie in that other interest to the themes of The Tempest.


Essay Proposal:  In the proposal, you will 1) identify the topic you will address, 2) explain the argument you plan to make about that topic, 3) list in MLA style the five sources that you have consulted, formatting those found in the edition of The Tempest as if they were found independently, and 4) provide an outline.  Your outline must include the following: an introduction, a thesis statement, and at least four topic sentences.  This essay proposal will be worth the equivalent of two responses.


Essay Presentation:  There will be an informal five-minute, in-class presentation of the research that you have done for your essay during the last class, the time otherwise scheduled for the final exam.  In it, you will provide background on your topic and detail your basic approach to The Tempest.  The main talking points for the presentation are as follows: 1) contextualize your topic, likely drawing on the historical work that you mention in the research proposal; 2) describe and discuss critically other scholars’ arguments about your topic, especially those we have not already discussed in class; 3) offer a provisional thesis/argument about your topic and sketch the trajectory that your research essay will likely take; 4) apply your argument to the primary texts, preferably by identifying one or two relevant passages from the play. 


Annotated Biography:  To organize your research, and to help your fellow students follow along with your presentation, write up an annotated biography, photocopy it, and pass it out to the class (around 13 copies will do for some people can share).  The annotated biography needs to have the following information: the provisional title of your essay, one or two select quotations from each of your five minimum sources, the correct bibliographic information above those quotations (MLA style), and one or two relevant quotations from the primary texts.  Your peers might be able to use the quotations from your annotated bibliography in their own essays, and visa versa.  Obviously, aside from the quotations, you can copy much of this information from your research proposal. 


Research Essay Grade:  Your grade will be based on four factors: 1) to what extent you demonstrate an ability to think critically about literary texts, 2) the importance and originality of your topic and thesis, 3) how well you write and organize your essay and substantiate your argument; and finally, 4) the extent to which you perform the criteria mentioned above.  Most importantly, if you do not address three of the five scholarly sources described above in your essay, you can expect at most to receive a C.  Also remember that turning in a paper you wrote for another class as an essay for this class, i.e. recycling the same words for double credit, constitutes academic dishonesty at EMU.  Any such paper, or any plagiarized paper, will receive no credit, jeopardizing your final grade and likely even your ability to pass the class.