What is required?
- Choose two (not one, and not more than two) of the short stories assigned in our course and make an argument about them.
- What you will be arguing is up to you. Make sure that you are arguing something, and not merely describing a situation.
- If you are having trouble coming up with a topic, go back to your discussion posts for reminders of what you found particularly interesting, and write about that.
- Introductory paragraph: In your introductory paragraph you must make the above explicit by stating:
- The titles of the two short stories you will be discussing
- What you are arguing (this is the all-important thesis statement)
- Quotations: Quotations must form an integral part of your paper. Since this is an academic paper and not a personal reflection, it must contain analysis, and the best way to show that your analysis is strong is to back up your points with evidence in the form of quotations. You must include at least six quotations from the sources that you will use (six in total, not six per source). Cite your sources in two places:
- In-text, according to MLA format
- On your Works Cited page, according to MLA format
Your quotations must be in quotation marks – otherwise I will not count them as quotations. The only exception is block quotations: if your quotation runs more than four lines, it should be set apart from the rest of the paragraph as a block quotation (indented from the left), and it need not be in quotation marks (though your source must still be cited).
Alternately, just because words are in quotation marks does not mean that they are quotations from your sources. The best way to indicate that quotations are quotations is to provide an in-text citation next to each one.
Important Information Regarding Citations
In the past I have noticed that some students do not cite some or all their sources, or do not do so adequately. I am not talking about correct citation per MLA format (and there are often problems with this), but rather any adequate citation at all. Here are some issues I have come across:
- A quotation appears in quotation marks but is not cited in-text (there is no citation at all, and therefore no indication of who is being quoted).
- A phrase is flagged by the originality report as appearing elsewhere verbatim, but this sentence is not in quotation marks and no source is cited.
- There is a quotation mark at the beginning but not at the end of the sentence (or vice versa), or the quotation marks appear in the middle of the quotation, not encompassing the entire quotation.
- In a block quotation, just the first line is indented rather than the entire quotation as required.
- A definition is provided but it is either not in quotation marks (even though it is reproduced verbatim) or it is in quotation marks and not cited. Do not forget that you must cite dictionaries as well.
- A source is used in the paper but not mentioned on the works cited page.
- A source is mentioned on the works cited page but is not mentioned in-text when it is used.
Some of these issues can be construed as plagiarism. I cannot stress this enough: complete citation (quotation marks when necessary and a clear indication of who stated what you are quoting or paraphrasing) is essential. It is better to over-cite than to under-cite. Any time you are reproducing several words in a row – even if it is not a full sentence – you need quotation marks and a citation. The only exception is a block quotation, and in that case you still need a citation, but instead of the quotation marks you would indent the block quotation to indicate that you are quoting. Some students briefly mention the title of a narrative or the name of a character somewhere in the paragraph before/after a quotation – this is not enough.
The MLA style site linked below shows you how to cite properly.
- Length: The paper must fall in the 1,500 – 1,800 word range, including all paratext (that is, the paper’s title, our course’s info, the date, the works cited page, etc.). You are required to include the word count at the bottom of your paper, and your word count statement is also considered a paratext (your word count statement forms part of your word count). I will check to see if your word count is accurate (a) by copying and pasting papers selected at random onto Word, and (b) if it seems that your paper is much longer or shorter than what is indicated by your stated word count. I expect complete honesty.
II. Notes to Keep in Mind
- Do not open with a universal statement (e.g., “Since the beginning of time people have had different opinions…”) or spend a long time setting up a broader theme in your introduction. You should get straight to the point as soon as possible, and include the parts mentioned above.
- Include a clear thesis statement and make sure that your paper does not go off on tangents that are beyond the scope of your thesis. On the other hand, be certain that in your paper you cover everything that you have set out to cover in your thesis. One way to follow these directives is to edit your thesis after you have written your paper so that the former corresponds to the latter.
- I do not mind if you use the first person, but make sure that you are backing up your points and not just stating what you think or how you feel. In other words, this paper should focus on analysis and not deal with personal experiences.
- Make sure that your paper does not contain any summary of the material.