Length:  5-6 pages, typewritten, double-spaced, MLA Format; Minimum 5 sources cited in paper.

Subject: Conduct research on any author from the Making Literature Matter text

Review chapter 6 in Making Literature Matter “Writing Researched Arguments.”

Audience: The audience for the research essay is your classmates.  You want to inform them of your findings on the author as well as present your interpretive analysis of one work by the author.

Requirements: Use both primary and secondary sources to develop your essay. Primary sources for literary research are the works created by the author.  Secondary sources consist of biographical information on the author that others have written as well as other writers’ critical essays on the author’s works.

Development: Approximately two thirds of your paper should be devoted to secondary source information covering the author’s biographical details and accomplishments.  About one third of the paper should cover your analysis of one work by the author (primary research). However, if you wish to reverse the proportion for the two sections, that is okay.  Perhaps a third organizational approach might be to devote half of the paper to secondary source material and half to primary material.  It is important that you devote adequate coverage to each section, avoiding the problem of developing the paper mostly on one at the expense of the other.

Research is the process of finding out something about your topic and should begin with questions.  What exactly do you want to know about the author?  Some authorial questions might be the following:

Who is this writer?  When did the writer live and what is the cultural heritage? What types of literature does the writer create? What are some of the famous works? Is the writer well known for a specific way of developing works or for a specific literary genre such as poetry, drama, essays, short stories, novels?  Having read a work by the author, you might ask how do the issues from the work compare or link to the writer’s life?  These and other similar questions will point you in a direction as you examine sources of information.

In developing the primary research, choose one work by the author to analyze in your paper.  For example, let’s say you choose Kate Chopin for the research, and you read her short story in he MLM text  “The Story of an Hour” (p. 714).  Analytic questions about the text might by why is the protagonist Mrs. Mallard celebrating her loss?  Why are the other characters’ assumptions about Mrs. Mallard wrong?  What issues is Chopin exploring in this fictional world?

The analytic questions will help you quickly focus on the information that you are looking for to write your paper.  These also might connect to what you have discovered in the author’s biography.  It is best to attempt to link the issues from the author’s work to biographical details, if possible.  This adds more unity to your research discussion.

Thesis: After reading a work by the author and doing biographical research, for a main claim that best asserts something that you have discovered about this person.  This becomes the thesis of your paper and should be stated early in your introduction.  However, you should draft your introduction last, even though it is the opening of your essay.  It is important to remain flexible and open to new ideas as you are researching.  New discoveries may require you to revise your claim.  Remember that research is the process of finding out new information on a topic.  The thesis claim should best represent what you have discovered.

Your Voice: The “analysis of a work section” of your paper presents your own critical position and thus is “your voice” expressing your interpretation.  The biographical information, while using secondary sources for development, also must contain your brief commentary here and there to make sense of the source information that you have used.  This avoids a strictly “cut and paste” type of research.  For example, if you have discussed many of Edgar Allan Poe’s struggles in life like death, loss, drug use, then briefly comment to make sense of this material: “It becomes clear that Poe faced many challenges in life.  Perhaps these conflicts stimulated his creative expression.”  The introduction and conclusion of your essay should be primarily in your own voice, limiting the secondary source material.

Conclusion: The conclusion of the research paper should reflect the issues that you have developed and on the writer in general.  For example, you might comment on the contributions and merit of the writer.  Does the writer raise valid issues that are important to the reader to contemplate or for society in general?

Documentation of Sources: You must include the list of sources that you used for the paper on the Works Cited page and parenthetical, in-text citations.  Remember that proper documentation of sources is a two-step process.  Consult the Making Literature Matter text (chapter 6, pp. 199-246) for documentation information. You will use MLA (Modern Language Association) format.

Consult p. 203 in Making Literature Matter for an overview of how to evaluate sources.  Review p. 210 for information and examples of MLA in-text citations.  See the New MLA Citation Module on the homepage for examples of MLA Works Cited entries for sources.  Read the student research paper in the Essay Examples on the course page for a model.

E-mail a copy (attach it as a MS Word document) to a classmate for peer editing, using the Mail Tool.

When you are responding to a classmate’s essay, use the following draft checklist.
When finished, e-mail your response back to the classmate.


Is the essay at least 5-6 pages in length plus the Works Cited page?
Does the essay contain in-text, parenthetical citation of sources?
Does the essay cover both primary and secondary source information–approximately one-third to literary analysis and two-thirds to biography? Or one half to analysis and one half to biography?
Is the claim (thesis) clearly stated in the introduction?
Does the conclusion reflect on the issues raised?
Does the student include a “voice” while summarizing the biographical details, making a brief commentary here and thee to make sense of the source information?
Is the subject of the research an author from the Making Literature Matter textbook?

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