English 650: Paper #1


in class, Wednesday, September 27, 2000.


5 pages.


Assignment | Guidelines | Useful handouts


        Develop a thesis about one of the texts we've read so far (or up to, say, Sept. 27th, if you'd like to read ahead). Since the paper should be about 5 pages in length, I suggest you choose one novel or a pair of stories (for Carver, Moore, and Boyle). And, yes, both parts of Spiegelman's Maus can count as one novel.

        Your paper should offer a persuasive argument about a theme or issue or question you see in the text(s). Since the relationship(s) between the form and themes of each work has been a recurring issue, you would do well to address this question in your paper. 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.

        For this first paper, I am not requiring that you include critical voices along side of your own. However, if you wish to use a critical commentary to initiate your argument (i.e., does Desmond Christy's review of Maus I offer a helpful way to read the novel?), you may do so. Include the critical 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 pair of short stories).


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 or similarity does not constitute a thesis. So, it would not be sufficient to say that Donald Barthelme's Snow White deploys a fragmented narrative style. True enough, but so what? Instead, you might argue that the fragmented narrative style of Barthelme's Snow White both replicates and comments upon the socio-political circumstances of its production, actively if imperfectly engaging with ideas of gender, nation, and power in the late 1960s. 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 poem, or illustrations and text from a picture book 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 philnel@ksu.edu. 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: Imagery and Figurative Language | Thesis vs. Topic | Keys to Structure and Style

Return to Syllabus for English 650

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