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English 428

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Analytical Paper and Proposal Assignment (Your Title--centered, not bold or underlined)

The heading, title, and first paragraph of this assignment sheet demonstrate the MLA Style you are to use for this assignment. Please refer to a handbook or the MLA web site, available through the Oviatt Library and/or our course website.

This essay must: be 7-10 pages in length (double-spaced, stapled, Times New Roman, 12-pt font), contain a clear thesis, present supporting evidence, be well-organized, contain in-text citations, and contain a Works Cited page.

See syllabus for due dates.

Text Choice:

You may choose to analyze a text of your choice (with instructor's approval) or you may

choose a text from our course reading list (however, if you choose a course text, you must

present an aspect of the text that was not presented in our class presentations). When writing

an analytical paper, avoid summarizing the plot--it is necessary to say something specific and

significant about the work and to use specific evidence from the text to support your point(s).

Format: Your essay should consist of several paragraphs, which logically follow each other.

  • Title: The title should tell enough about the topic of the essay to capture the interest of readers and let them know the focus of the essay.

  • Introduction: To avoid a dull beginning, lead into your thesis with an engaging opening. Be sure to include the author's complete name and the title of the work you are going to discuss. (If you are comparing texts, then you will need to mention both authors' full names and both titles of the texts discussed.) After the initial reference, continue to refer to the author by his or her last name. The titles of the books should be underlined or in italics. The introduction establishes a context for your thesis by briefly summarizing the work in terms of what you want to argue. Your thesis statement should be somewhere in the introduction, and it should be narrow, specific, and clearly stated.

  • Body: The body paragraphs should provide support for your thesis position by offering specific evidence from the text and explanation as to how this support is significant for your thesis. Develop your thesis fully, making sure each paragraph connects to it. Document any in-text citations. Analyze only those details that fit your thesis. Use transitional words and phrases to help establish comparisons/contrasts/connections.

  • Conclusion: The conclusion should refer to your introduction, without repeating your thesis statement. It should expand the thesis idea with a concluding insight gained from reading the work(s) or even from writing the paper. The conclusion paragraph should provide closure to the essay without announcing that this is the conclusion.

Explanation of the Analytical Essay:
Characteristics of an essay:

  1. An essay is relatively short--from roughly two to no more than fifty pages.

  2. An essay is somewhat formal; that is, it follows certain forms that have become conventional. It adheres to the rules of usage--punctuation, spelling, syntax, diction--expected in published writing. It has a thesis that unifies the whole essay. It follows an organizational pattern that emphasizes intellectual coherence.

  3. An essay is aimed at a serious audience, one that cares about your subject and will take time to consider what you have to say.

  4. An essay is persuasive. Your purpose is to persuade people that your ideas are worthy of consideration.

  5. An essay is dialogic. It often responds to other people who have written or spoken, and it assumes that its audience might talk back.

  6. Most importantly, an essay is argumentative. It develops a line of thought (a logically related series of claims) that relates to a thesis. It supports claims with evidence (facts and reasoning). It organizes its claims and evidence in a coherent and logical order.

The Writing Process:

While not in any particular order, most writers think and write through stages of a process in order to come up with a final product. This process consists of:

Inventing/Planning: Studying the subject (or text). Identifying your purpose and audience.

Generating ideas. Recognizing any limitations on your essay (length, time in which you have

to write it, specifics of an assignment). Gathering information and support.

Drafting: Determining your thesis and supporting claims. Gathering facts from the texts

and, if necessary, secondary sources, to support your claims. Organizing and developing

ideas. Writing your first draft.

Revising: Reading your draft critically. If possible, getting others to read your draft and

make comments on it. Revising and checking for clarity, coherence, and unity. Editing and

proofreading. Rethinking your plan of organization and line of reasoning.

  • Do not summarize; analyze. Use the techniques we've been exploring in class.

  • Stick to your thesis--discuss one element, instead of trying to cover everything.

  • When writing about literature use the present tense and appropriate literary terms.

  • Don't regurgitate what was discussed in class or in HyperNews postings. Use your own insights; support your ideas textually.

  • Use Lukens and Bang to model your analysis.

  • You may draw from your own knowledge of the material, if appropriate, including biographical material about the author. Make sure you cite your sources, if you use them, and include a Works Cited page.

  • You may draw from your own knowledge about child development in regards to literature.

  • You may draw from what you are learning in other classes, as long as it is pertinent to your discussion of the text.

  • You may wish to discuss how useful (or not) the text would be in the classroom.

  • Make use of our class Workshop.

  • Use the Learning Resource Center Writing Lab (Student Services Building 4th floor).

  • No cover page.

  • No folders.

What Can I Write About? -- Steps in choosing a topic:

  1. Be a Creative Reader: Creative reading--reading for interpretation--is the crucial first step

toward choosing a topic. Read and then re-read a work, study formal elements in it, make

connections between the work and your interests. Reading creatively should give you ideas

and questions about what the work means. Any of these ideas or questions can be topics for

essays about literature.

  1. Raise a key question about the work: The topics of interpretive essays always refer to

questions. You might announce your topic as "The Concept of 'Sameness' in Lois Lowry's

The Giver" or "Jonas's Memory in The Giver." But the audience knows that behind topics

like these lie questions: Can sameness have limits and still exist? Was Jonas better off not

knowing about feelings? The purpose of taking up such topics is to answer the questions that

give rise to them. When you state your topic, you should not phrase it as a question, but

good topics always imply questions of interpretation.

  1. Choose a Good Topic: What makes a topic good?

  • Ask yourself how easily your audience could answer the question that lies behind it. A

useful criterion is that a topic is "good" if your readers could not answer the question after reading the work once. That is, readers could not answer it convincingly, either for themselves or for others, without reviewing and studying the work. In other words, the topic must be genuinely thought provoking rather than obvious.

audience should be interested in it. One of the least interesting questions is "What happened in the work?" Usually readers can understand a work's details after reading it once; you do not need to provide information your audience already knows. Your topic should not be a summary of the work.

  • A third way to assess the quality of your topic is to ask if it is focused narrowly enough for the confines of your essay.

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