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English: EGL 1020 Writing About Literature

Composition II: Writing About Literature (EGL 1020)

EGL 1020 / Research Paper Assignment (Dr. Frank Edwards)

Length: 7-8  pages (including Title Page, Informal Outline, Draft Pages, Works Cited Page)

For this assignment, you will explore how a piece(s) of literature of your choice comments on prevailing social attitudes about a particular topic (marriage, women’s rights, race, etc) or historical event (i.e. American Civil War). In this paper, you will be blending historical/sociological analysis and literary analysis.

Steps to Take:

Select a story, play or poem

  1. Identify which topic or historical event you would like to research.
  2. Research the prevailing societal attitudes during the time of the story/play’s setting or composition about this topic. You will have to make some informed and reasonable generalizations based on your research.
  3. To formulate a thesis and start to plan your paper, consider the following questions:
    • Does the story challenge the prevailing societal attitudes about your topic, does it reaffirm them, or does it do a combination of both?
    • Is the text  “taking a stand,” presenting a view that would not have been widely held?
    • Which people and activities are presented positively in the story?
    • Which people are represented negatively?
    • Are characters’ attitudes about this topic used to help readers understand them? Are their attitudes used to symbolize something else?
  4. Formulate a thesis that asserts that the story challenges prevailing societal views about the topic, confirms them, or does a bit of both.
  5. Develop your argument through examples from the story/play/poem and from your secondary sources.
  6. Use point-by-point organizational structure. Do not simply devote the first half of your paper to a discussion of the social/historical and the second half, the literary. You should blend the two elements.


Say you wanted to write about “The Things They Carry” and its treatment of the Vietnam War. You could divide your topic into several subtopics---soldiers, bravery, purpose of war, etc. You would then research what people felt about these aspects of war while it was happening. Then you should look at how the story presents war. Is it challenging people’s perceptions or confirming them?

Where to begin

Start at the library. You want to make sure you use both of the library catalog and the online databases, looking at both journals and books. The following are a list of online databases, available in the library and through remote access from your home, which you might find helpful.

Possible Sources for Research Papers:

  • The new wife: the evolving role of the American wife/ by Susan Shapiro
  • A History of the wife/ Marilyn Yalom
  • Public vows: a history of marriage and the nation/ Nancy Cot
  • The light of the home an intimate view of the lives of women in Victorian America/Green, Harvey
  • Apartheid: a history/Brian Lapping
  • Blues people Negro music in white America:Baraka, Imamu  Amir
  • Early jazz its roots and musical development Schuller, Gunter
  • From jazz to swing: African American jazz musicians and their, music, 1890-1935/ Hennessey, Thomas J.
  • The history of jazz/ Ted Gioia
  • From Jim Crow to civil rights: the Supreme Court and the struggle for racial equality/Klarman, Michael J.
  • Journey from Jim Crow the desegregation of transit/Barnes, Catherine A.
  • The Anti-Apartheid Reader: The Struggle Against White Rule in South Africa/David Mermelstein

Fiction Writing Assignment:  Literary Research Paper (Dr. Madachy)


Create a research-based literary analysis that examines one or more short stories we have read this semester.  You may choose to compare/contrast issues (such as themes, characters, or point of view) in two or more texts, or write an extended analysis of a single text.   Plot summary is not analysis, and should be avoided.  You should only discuss plot details to support specific claims you’re making about the literary texts.  You may assume that your readers have read the specific texts you are discussing.

Some possible topics include:

  1. Discuss the narrative point of view in “The Yellow Wall-paper” and “A&P,” explaining the significance of narrative perspective each uses (i.e. how the narrative point of view contributes to the reader’s understanding of each story).
  2. Examine the way in which plot structure is used in “The Story of an Hour” and “A Worn Path.”  How does the plot structure affect the story itself?
  3. Compare and contrast the use of language in “A&P” and “The Cask of Amontillado.”  How does the language used help the reader come to any larger understanding of those texts?

Whatever topic you discuss, the ultimate goal is to help your readers come to a greater understanding about the overall work you’re analyzing.  Essentially, what’s the significance of the arguments you’re making?

All essays must provide textual evidence from the text in the form of direct quotes, which must be properly cited according to MLA style (refer to your grammar handbooks for more on MLA documentation).  You must also incorporate at least three (3) secondary sources, also properly documented according to MLA style.  There is useful information in Kirzner and Mandel’s Literature textbook in chapter 6, including a sample student research paper on pp. 102-108).

All papers are expected to be grammatically correct and create a professional appearance (i.e. your paper should be free of typos and other careless errors).


Approximately 6 pages, plus a works cited page

Major Literary Research Essay / Presentation (Prof. Robinson)

MLA format, 6-10 pages (at least 5 sources)

Using MLA format, type a 6-10 page (1,800 - 3,000 words) double- spaced Research Essay in 10-12 pt. font that asks and answers a research-related question related to a work of literature (poetry, drama, and/or short fiction) in Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing

Thesis-driven arguments should fully develop a research-related topic using appropriate examples, and quotations.  The paper should draw from at least 4 relevant sources beyond the primary text (5 sources).  Support from primary source, history, current events—newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books, literature/non-fiction, government publications, websites.  Use no more than 2 of the same type of source material.  Consider your writing handbook (MLA).  See example (Kirszner 34-39).  Late papers will most likely not be considered unless under extreme circumstances, due to the class’s final session.

Presentations will be on one or more topics, or essays from the finished portfolio.  Include a handout or verbally outline the breadth of the presentation.  Presentations will be 5 min., covering the students’ chosen topics.  Let me know if any media, i.e., overhead, computer, tape recorder, DVD, or VCR will be necessary.


  • To encourage students to give and receive advice concerning writing, and research.
  • Familiarity with important issues in current, as well as traditional composition theory.
  • Ability to accurately support arguments with appropriate research-related materials.
  • Document discipline-related findings according to MLA, APA, Chicago-style format.

Example Research Topic:  Education
Example Research Question:  How does education influence identity?
Example Research Thesis:  Education influences/doesn’t influence personal/ideological, religious/spiritual, social/political, rhetorical, and vocational identities by…your argument here.

Please be aware that this is the assignment for English 1020, however your professor may have altered the requirements. Always refer to your professor for the most up to date information.