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Instructor: J. Calvin Lee

Spring 2014 Research Project Common Graded Assignment

Description: A research paper, like an essay, advances critical inquiry through either informative, interpretive, or
persuasive means. Likewise, it needs to be planned, organized, and developed. A key difference is that most
research papers demand a greater degree of time and effort in order to complete. This is understandable since
research involves a careful step-by-step process that requires you to develop strategies for gathering, evaluating,
and analyzing information. The added feature of a research project simply means that it encompasses a few more
elements than the final paper itself.

Planning and writing: In reality, you start writing a research paper from the moment you begin considering
topics and doing background reading and note taking. Writing refers to much more than getting the words in the
right order and designing unified paragraphs. Recognizing the unique nature of a research paper can help you
develop strategies and processes that are appropriate to the task. For help getting started, see the Purdue OWL
link on Conducting Research at Also see the CCBC Library
links on How to Do Research at

Choose one writer/poet who is of interest to you and whose work appears in the three-volume textbook. Next,
submit a research proposal for approval. Then, in a research paper of 5-7 pages, explore the writers background
and analyze the significance of 2-3 of his/her works, which may or may not necessarily be in the textbook. Some
issues to consider are the writers motivations, the genre and style in which s/he typically works, the primary
themes which concern him/her, and the impact and importance of his/her work on others. Use the writers
experiences to help build your paper, but dont abandon your thesis to merely summarize his/her life and
literary work. Instead, explain what it is (the why) about his/her life and work that matters to you and should
also matter to the reader.

Unlike the first two major out-of-class essay assignments, your research paper will discuss literature in a more
comprehensive and thorough manner. Not only should you examine the writers works (or primary sources), you
should examine the treatment of the writer and his/her work in several different secondary sources such as books,
magazines, scholarly journals, Web sites, and Internet databases.

Important note: The Research Project counts for 35% of your total course grade. Key elements follow
accordingly: (1) topic proposal, (2) rough draft with annotated bibliography-5%, and (3) final draft with finished
Works Cited page and in-text citations-30%.

Essay specifications:
5-7 pages (at least 1,500 words) typed in 12-pt font, double-spaced with standard 1 margins
MLA style format
Include a Works Cited page and parenthetical in-text documentation, citing 4-6 reference sources (using
the CCBC database or library to locate those sources)
Other considerations: Word count is onethough by no means the onlyimportant dimension of a research
paper. By writing a paper of the appropriate size you are working with the issues that arise in longer, more
complex essays. For example, organization is much more challenging in a 1500-word essay than a 500-word
essay, and the larger essay will need to show greater diversity of source material and deeper detailing. On the
other hand, papers should be focused appropriately. Overly long papers (over 2200 words) can exhibit
organization or relevance problems, and show inattention to final editing. Note also that word count refers to the
body of the paper only, not including the Works Cited.
A successful research paper will:
Give a clear direction in the thesis statement
Have coherent topic sentences that relate to the thesis
Have organized, developed, and focused paragraphs
Have a good quality and variety of sources
Use effective sentences that have concrete subjects and active verbs
Use strong, clear language and be relatively free from grammar errors
Be documented correctly in MLA style format
Have a good overall level of insight (the extent to which is more than encyclopedic regurgitation of
existing knowledge).
Due Dates:
Fri, Apr. 4: Research proposal synopsis due in Blackboard.
Mon, Apr. 28: Three hard-copies of Rough Draft (at least 1000 words) for peer review and one hard-copy of
full Annotated Bibliography* for submission.
Mon, May 9 (end of class): Final Draft hard-copy of at least 1500 words due.
Do not put this assignment off until near the due date. You will certainly not be able to do a satisfactory job
at the last moment.
*Will discuss in class. Also see library handout at