Philip Nel > Courses > English 690: Children's Literature and the Left (Spring 2004) > Paper Assignment (Undergraduates)

Paper Assignment for Undergraduates

Philip Nel's English 690: Children's Literature and the Left

PAPER DUE: In class, May 10, 2004.
PAPER LENGTH: 10 pages.


        You should develop an argument about one or two of the literary works on the syllabus. If you are choosing two works and you would like to use a literary work not on the syllabus, you may do so only if you check with me first. Your paper should offer a persuasive argument about a theme or issue or question you see in our readings. A persuasive argument requires a thesis, supporting evidence from the text(s) (direct as well as indirect support), and explanation of that evidence. Your paper should have an introduction which states the thesis, body paragraphs providing the support and explanation of that support, a conclusion, and a "Works Cited" page. (Further guidelines are below.)

        I am not requiring you to situate your argument is in relation to critical discussions about the author's or authors' work. However, I would like you to situate your claims historically. That is, you should consider the context -- historical, cultural, social -- in which the work was written. For example, please do not use a phrase like "was ahead of its time" unless you can prove it. And under no circumstances should you make large claims like "Throughout history,..."

Paper Guidelines

Getting Started…

1. Read and Reread; formulate a provisional thesis. 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. Formulate a provisional thesis.

2. Evaluate your secondary sources. What are the scholars' arguments? Read and reread the literary work or works in question, with a mind to the scholar's claims, your claims, and evidence (or lack thereof) for both you and the scholar. On what sort of evidence does the scholar's article rely? Is it persuasive? What about your evidence? How does the literary text support your position? How might the work's historical, cultural, or social context influence your thinking?

Writing the Paper…

1. The introduction:
a. 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.

b. State your thesis. Make sure your thesis is specific enough to be covered adequately in the space of your discussion. Remember: merely noting a difference or similarity does not constitute a thesis. 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 novel 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."


for English 690: Children's Literature and the Left

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