Papers: Writing Guidelines
It is recommended that you own and frequently consult a good quality writing handbook such as a current edition of Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference (Bedford/St. Martin's Press) or Kirszner and Mandell's Brief Holt Handbook (Harcourt Brace). You also need a good dictionary like The American Heritage College Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin).
Originality and Personal Work
It is required that your work be original and personal in all your papers. The point is to provide your own observations and analysis. These are not research papers or book reports. Most of the time the only materials you will need are the assignment, the text, your brain, and a dictionary. In some cases, you might need to research the historical or other contexts of the text and its author. In the event that research is required, you must clearly acknowledge all your sources. The unacknowledged use of sources of any kind (including online materials, other people's ideas, scholarly books or articles, Cliff Notes, old papers, sorority/fraternity files, etc.) will be considered plagiarism and could have serious consequences (consult the instructor's Academic Honesty Policy in the syllabus).
Topics, Thesis, and Analysis
Your paper must deal with the objective analysis of one or more of the texts studied in the course. Papers should have a clear and well-focused thesis grounded on the issues raised by the study questions provided for each text. The analysis should go beyond the obvious, literal aspects of the text and should strive to clarify the ideas underlying the literary images, language, and situations. Your analysis and conclusions must be logical and you must be able to justify them in terms of the observable realities of the text. Pay attention to what the text is trying to say. Your interpretation must evolve out of a careful and attentive reading of the text and its contexts and NOT from personal opinions, judgments, prejudices, or subjective perspectives.
Speak in your own voice. Use your own words and your own language. Do not attempt to sound like a textbook or use language which you would not use in conversation. The language and reasoning of an analytical paper must be clear, logical, and concise. In general, a paper must be written in the simplest and clearest prose you're capable of writing. Your task is to explain the text, not to repeat or copy it. You must understand that there is a difference between creative and expository writing. Leave the "creative" writing to the poets and concentrate instead on making good sense in your arguments.
Title and General Presentation
Make sure your paper has a title which gives the reader useful information about the contents of your paper. The title must be both interesting and informative. To call a paper about Hamlet, "Hamlet," is dull and useless. An example of a better title might be "The Contradiction in the Character of Hamlet." Every paper must have a title which is to be placed at the top of the first page. Do not use a whole page just for the title. Also avoid plastic covers, folders, and such. Double-spaced, stapled sheets of white bond paper are all you need. All papers must be neatly typewritten.
Get to the point right at the start of the paper. The introduction must clearly state the exact purpose, thesis, and motivation of the paper. It should also identify the authors, texts, and specific passages or issues under analysis. The introduction should also provide a sketch of the main ideas to be explored in the paper, including anticipation of its conclusions.
Notice that paragraphs should be developed as self-contained, mini-essays discussing
one main idea (stated in the first sentence). The body of the paragraph should
offer proof and discussion of that idea as well as a conclusion, at the end
of the paragraph, leading naturally and logically into the issue to be discussed
in the next paragraph. The paragraph should be well developed (one or two sentences
are not a paragraph). Paragraphs should follow each other in such a way as to
constitute a logical sequence of arguments leading up to certain conclusions
at the end of the paper.
All your ideas must be supported with evidence from the text. You must clearly
and explicitly relate everything you say to the exact words, images, situations,
characters, and other details in the text. Notice that quotations by themselves
are not evidence or proof of anything. If you quote something you must fully
motivate, explain and analyze it. Keep quotations short and concise--quote only what is
absolutely essential to your argument.. Avoid long, block quotations (the kind that is so long that it needs to be indented from the text). All your
arguments must be specific and clearly grounded on the realities of the text--avoid
abstract discussions, unsubstantiated opinions, unsupported generalizations,
and anything which is not clearly growing out of and relevant to the understanding of the literary
texts you are analyzing. In general, stick to what you can prove from a careful
reading of the text.
The end of the paper should include a paragraph where you wrap up your discussion by bringing together the different strands of your argument and discussing the implications (the so what) of your observations.
Your papers will be graded according to all of the following: content, style,
grammatical and syntactical correctness, spelling, neatness, organization, originality,
analytical significance, logical reasoning, and depth of understanding of the
texts. For every paper, you must attempt to produce a piece of work which you
can be proud of. These papers are not the kind of work that you can put together
overnight. Start to work on your paper as soon as you can. You will need quite
a bit of time to do the analysis and then write, revise, and proofread the paper.
All the steps are necessary and time-consuming and will be essential in producing
work of high quality. See also Grading Standards and Procedures,
and Grading of Essays and Other Written Work.
The teacher said, "periods and commas go inside quotation marks, semicolons outside." But the student said, "I don't care"; he did not write a good paper.
Last updated: 02/04/2008
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