Philip Nel > Courses > English 440: The Graphic Novel (Spring 2010) > Paper Assignment #2

English 440: Paper #2


in class. Friday, 30 April 2010.


6-8 pages.


Assignment | Guidelines | Useful handouts


        Develop a thesis about one of the texts we've read. If you wish, the word "one" in the previous sentence can denote two books in the case of Maus, Persepolis (both of which are two volumes), or a multi-volume series such as Buddha, The Sandman, Scott Pilgrim, and Bone. Please adhere to these restrictions.

        Your paper should offer a persuasive argument about a theme or issue or question you see in the text(s). In the preceding sentence, "theme" can include anything from recurring motifs, to subject matter, to what you perceive as the work's political goals. A persuasive argument requires a thesis, supporting evidence from the text(s), and explanation of how that evidence supports your claims. Please use MLA documentation style for your citations and Works Cited page. Further guidelines are below.

        If you wish to use critical commentary or a secondary source to initiate your argument, you may do so. Include the critical or secondary viewpoint in the introduction and at the appropriate moment in your argument, but remember: your primary evidence must come from the primary material itself (i.e., the novel or novels). In other words, any critical context should be used sparingly.


Getting Started…

1. Read and Reread. Read and reread the work or works you've decided to write about, with a mind to the topic you have chosen. Take careful notes, making note of all relevant words, phrases, images, and (if applicable) illustrations.

Writing the Paper…

1. Formulate a thesis. Make sure your thesis is specific enough to be covered adequately in the space of your discussion. Remember: merely noting a difference, similarity, or theme does not constitute a thesis. So, it would not be sufficient to say that Osamu Tezuka's Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu plays with genres, panel shapes, and styles of representation. Perhaps, but so what? Why might this play be signficant? Instead, you might argue that, in Buddha, Vol. 1: Kapilavastu, Tezuka's form embodies its central idea: conveying the interconnectedness of all life, the book brings together a range of genres, panel shapes, and styles of representation. Refer to the handout titled "Thesis vs. Topic."

2. Each paragraph should begin with a claim. Just as a thesis claim guides the paper as a whole, a paragraph's claim (often referred to as a "topic sentence") guides a paragraph. So, at or near the beginning of each paragraph, include a topic sentence that states your paragraph's central argument. The topic sentence serves as a bridge between thesis and paragraph by making an interpretive claim that indicates how the paragraph will support your thesis.

3. Provide support. To persuade your readers to your position, you will need to provide some evidence in support of your claims. Quotations from the primary text should be used as evidence to prove your assertions.

4. Analysis and explanation of evidence. Be sure to analyze the quotation and discuss its significance. Explain for your reader how your evidence supports your claims.

5. Conclusion. Your last paragraph should synthesize, not summarize. You should resolve -- and not merely repeat -- your argument. Think of a conclusion this way: it both reminds your reader of where you've been and suggests new areas to explore.

And, after you finish your draft…

1. Revise and edit. Read your paper out loud to yourself. Often you will hear what your eyes will miss.

2. Grammar and structure are important. To help yourself proofread and revise with both of these ideas in mind, please see the handout titled "Keys to Structure and Style."

3. When in doubt, get help. My office hours are on the syllabus, and by appointment. My email address is Also, please make use of a grammar handbook and of the handouts linked to this paper assignment: "Imagery and Figurative Language," "Thesis vs. Topic," and "Keys to Structure and Style."

Useful Handouts on my Website: Imagery and Figurative Language | Thesis vs. Topic | Keys to Structure and Style National Association of Comics Art Educators' Study Guides and Handouts

See also the resources at the bottom of our course syllabus.

Return to Syllabus for English 440: The Graphic Novel

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