ENGLISH RESEARCH PROJECT
A 12-Step Process for A Painless Research Paper
Using MLA documentation style, you will write a 2000-word paper using one of the following short stories found in Portable Literature, 9th ed.
“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty
“How to Talk to Girls” by Neil Gaiman
“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner
“A&P” by John Updike
“The Storm” by Kate Chopin
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
The paper must be based on your own original thesis and must include references to five (5) secondary sources. THESE SOURCES MUST COME FROM THE TJC DATABASES. NO INTERNET SOURCES WILL BE ACCEPTED. (See link above for data base instructions). http://web.a.ebscohost.com.tjc.idm.oclc.org/ehost/…
It is suggested that you work through each of the following steps in order to complete a successful research paper.
Step 1: Prepare
List the major elements of short fiction which we have discussed: plot, character, foreshadowing, setting, point of view, symbolism, style and theme. Write a brief description of each element as it pertains to one or two of your favorite stories. During this process, you will probably home in on one element in one story that seems to stand out to you. Brainstorm, jot down ideas, and choose something interesting to you which has possibilities for a detailed analysis.
Step 2: Select
Choose one story; reread it carefully two or three times.
Make notes as you read.
Look for a focus.
Step 3: Analyze
Write a sentence expressing your interpretation of the theme of the story. You cannot proceed until you have an understanding of what the author is trying to tell us about human nature.
Step 4: Focus
Write a tentative thesis statement. This should include the title of the story and the author’s name. It should also include the one element which you will focus on in your analysis and it should relate that element to the theme of the story.
Here is an example of a good thesis from an analysis of a well-known short story:
In “The Lottery” Shirley Jackson uses simple objects—a box, some stones, some slips of paper—to symbolize the narrow-mindedness and brutality that result from superstitious thinking.
The element to be examined is the symbolism of objects. The theme is the danger of superstitious thinking.
Step 5: Research.
Begin the hunt for five required secondary sources. Secondary sources are written about the primary source (the short story). You may go to the library and search the indexes by story title. Ask a librarian to direct you.
Another source is the collection of online databases provided by the TJC library on the TJC website for all TJC students.
The best sources are literary journals. No internet sources will be accepted. No Wikepedia or Sparknotes.
When you have found secondary sources, read and study them carefully and select at least five usable ones.
Step 6: Make source citations
Prepare a citation for each of the sources you plan to use. Consult the textbook or website for proper MLA form. Write each citation as it will appear on your Works Cited page. You should have a total of six sources, five secondary sources and one primary source. Arrange them in alphabetical order for your Works Cited page.
Step 7: Read
Read through your secondary sources and mark important passages. Consider jotting notes in the margins and using symbols to draw your attention to certain ideas. Highlight only the portions of each source which you are interested in quoting or paraphrasing in your paper.
Step 8: Plan and organize
If your tentative thesis still applies, write a rough sentence outline combining your own thoughts with those from the outside sources. If needed, revise the original thesis statement before writing.
Step 9: Works Cited
Prepare your Works Cited page. The title Works Cited should be centered on the top line. List the sources in alphabetical order. Remember to use a hanging indent. Consult MLA link for detailed instructions.
Step 10: Start writing
Begin writing the first draft of the paper.
Try writing the introduction first. It should begin with an interesting lead-in and move smoothly to your thesis statement. It may end with an essay map or forecasting statement briefly naming the main points to be covered in the body of your paper. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence (follow your tentative plan), and each paragraph should follow through on the idea in the topic sentence. When you include any borrowed information, use the MLA in-text citation system. The conclusion should be strong and should refer to both the lead in and the thesis in the introduction.
When you have finished the rough drafting phase of the paper, remember to let it rest for a while, at least 24 hours. Review the concept of plagiarism before you begin any revision. See Chapter 3: Documenting Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism, beginning on page 49.
Step 11: Revise
Check for coherence (smooth flow of ideas in an understandable sequence).
Check for unity (single focus of all material within each paragraph). Cut any unnecessary or irrelevant information.
Make sure each quote blends in to the flow of ideas.
Eliminate all material that does not support the thesis statement.
Use the Using Materials page above as a checklist for MLA form.
Check for grammatical and mechanical rules.
Tip: Read the final draft aloud and listen for a smooth flow.
Tip: Read the final draft backwards (last sentence first) to check for sentence errors.
PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!
Step 12: Presentation
Submit your final paper as one document in the following order:
Works Cited page