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LIT2020 - BC Online


You Can Do It!

Use this guide to learn how to research and cite sources for your course.

Research Essay Purpose

The purpose of this essay is to think about how Short Stories have changed over the past two centuries. You could consider the form of the story, including literary techniques such as symbols, character development, theme, and imagery; or you could consider how the larger cultural context has changed, such as how women or people of color figure into society. Think about the connections you see between the older stories and the more recent stories. Follow the instructions below to answer the essay prompts. You can select from any of the readings on the syllabus. In this essay, you will analyze the stories closely, using specific examples to explain a larger message or technique. Remember to use our Literary Terms that we’ve been using all semester. Use research to provide background on the authors, time period, and historical context or to help support your analysis.

You will have two goals for this paper:

  1. Conduct a close reading based upon your understanding of the texts you’ve chosen.
  2. Do research to support your argument.

Choose TWO stories to analyze together: one from an earlier time period and one from a later time period. For example, you could analyze the two stories that I included in Unit 1: Gogol’s “The Overcoat” and Lahiri’s “Gogol.” Or you could look at two stories by women: Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek.” The idea is to find some related element that shows some kind of evolution (or lack thereof). Your larger goal is to write a thesis statement that expresses some insightful observations that can be made reading these stories. For example, you could analyze how character development is used to show that individuals feel ostracized from society in Gogol and Lahiri’s stories, or how women have more options for escaping oppressive marriages today by comparing the Chopin and Cisneros stories.

Research Essay Prompts

Answer these questions:

  1. Even though these two stories were written in different time periods, what links them?
  2. How does the art of the short story continue to connect works of art throughout history?

Research Essay Instructions

1) A close reading of a text means that you look very closely at just one text, selecting important passages to quote and analyze closely for the way they lead to a particular understanding of the work as a whole. Every point you make in your argument should be supported by direct evidence from the text. Direct evidence includes direct quotes as well as brief descriptions of important events when necessary. Do not speak about the texts generally or in chronological or plot summary order (example: and then this happened, then that happened), but make particular points about the texts that build upon one another; when analyzing two texts, make sure to place them in conversation with one another rather than having two unrelated halves of a paper. It will be required that you use at least one or two quotes from the text you are analyzing in each body paragraph—no more, no less.

2) You are required to use TWO sources other than the two short stories that you select to write about, although you are encouraged to use more than two. The research component of this assignment is meant to help you make your writing more informed. Things that you can research include: background on the history or social movement or on the genre of literature (for example: science fiction or the Civil Rights Movement); author biographies; any outside ideas you want to bring in to your analysis (example: a social or psychological theory); or what other literary critics (especially scholars and experts) have said about the meaning/interpretation of the story. For example, you could quote what a professor said about how to interpret the story. The requirement for research is that sources must be either from the Broward College library or from a website that ends in .edu. Websites that end in .org, .com, etc. will NOT be accepted (no Sparknotes or Wikipedia). You will be learning about how to use the Library Resources before writing the essay.

Requirements for writing this essay include: MLA formatting (including in-text citations and a Works Cited page); consulting the materials that I post on D2L under the Library Research and Unit #5 folders; using quotes that you explain and analyze; 1000 words minimum, double-spaced. Please note that the Works Cited page will NOT count toward the word requirement.

  • Thesis Statement: Your paper is required to have a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a sentence that states your main argument. It should be located in your first paragraph (typically at the end of the first paragraph). This is not a statement that says: “this is what I will discuss.” Rather, it is an argument; in other words, it will concisely sum up your overall point in the paper. You can find sample thesis statements in the Unit #5 folder. Remember, the most important thing to do when writing a thesis is to ask yourself: so what? What is my point? Make sure that your thesis answers these questions.
  • Additional Requirements: Your paper must be proofread, perfectly formatted, and overall look as though a college student wrote it. It should have an introduction and a conclusion. These should be separate paragraphs from the body. I recommend using a five-paragraph or six-paragraph model for your paper. Do not write a plot summary, but instead answer the big ideas on the paper prompt by analyzing the texts you’ve chosen. I am happy to read a rough draft over email and give you feedback, as long as you email it to me no later than four days before the final deadline, or attend my office hours.