The Final Project: Incorporating Research
The research essay, like the short essays you have done, begins with a close reading of a text or texts. Since your first two essays have been close readings, you will select one of those essays as the basis for your research project.
For students of literature, the first and most important source to check for secondary scholarly sources is the MLA International Bibliography, a database of all articles and books written about literature by scholars. It is a bibliography, which means that it provides the information needed to locate the source–author, title, journal it appeared in or publisher of the book, date, and page numbers. It is not a completely full-text source. Thus, once you find the entry that looks interesting to you, you will need to check the links included to see if our library has it or has access to it: if it does, then you can locate the source, read it, and use it or not as you see fit; if not, your options are to order it through interlibrary loan (takes up to a week, but usually only a day or two for an article). JSTOR may have some full-text articles for your topic, too, but the search engine in JSTOR is very clunky, and JSTOR has many different types of sources that are not to be used, like book reviews. And in any case, pertinent articles available in JSTOR will be linked to JSTOR through the Find It @ VSU link in the MLA Bibliography.
The sources you collect—at least 5—should meet the following criteria:
–be published since the year 2000;
–be at least 8 pages in length;
–NOT be reviews of other works;
–NOT be a dissertation or thesis;
–NOT be published in The Explicator, Notes and Queries, or American Notes and Queries.
You should also consult the electronic catalogue of books for any
book-length studies we have (from the Odum Library home page, click on the “Books and Journals” tab). Remember, though, that books are LONG and usually not as up-to-date as articles in journals, so limit your reliance on books.
AVOID THE INTERNET! Scholars must learn the appropriate tools for their field, and the MLA Bibliography is the one literary scholars use first and foremost.
Once you locate several articles and perhaps a book or two, read them carefully, thinking of how they help or hinder your analysis of the primary text. Look for sentences/passages that would be helpful to quote to support your argument. Then go back to the primary text, revise your thesis as needed, and write. Use the secondary sources to support your argument but not to make it for you; this means quoting a sentence or two from your secondary sources to enhance the point you have made. And of course, any ideas or words taken from secondary sources need to be documented–you need to give credit to the author correctly, both in the essay and in your list of Works Cited.
Please note that ALL QUOTATIONS need a lead-in sentence or phrase in your words. When about to quote a secondary source, use phrases such as “As Jason Smith points out,” or “Judith Herkimer argues that” or something similar (use the critic’s FULL NAME the first time you quote him or her; thereafter, just his or her last name). Also, articles or writers do not “talk about” something—the authors argue or note or suggest or point out, etc. For a decent sample researched essay, showing integration of secondary sources, see the one on pp. 165-69 in our Reading and Writing about Literature text.
For your essay, as it is only 6 pages, you should limit the number of secondary sources that you quote–somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 would be the maximum; 2 would be the minimum. Now, to have 2-4 secondary sources to use, you will need to locate, read, and select from several more—at least 5, but as many as you can locate in the short period of time we have left in the semester!
You need to get into the MLA Bibliography search immediately, as you need to have located and read at least one scholarly journal
article or essay in a book-length collection of essays for Thursday’s journal assignment. This article will also be used to write a formal explication for a grade, so make sure to select a recent (post-2000) article of at least 8 pages on your topic.
The final draft of the research essay, including all notes, drafts, peer reviews, and copies of all sources used, will be due Friday, April 29 by 11:59 p.m. You will need to submit the final essay through BlazeView and submit the links or the downloads of all secondary sources you used.
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