Literature Writing

Some Suggestions for Writing a Good Paper:
1. Begin with a hypothesis. State the problem you will be analyzing in the form of an idea or argument that guides the structure of the paper.
2. Develop your hypothesis with several (from two to five) supporting points. One instance is insufficient to show a trend and therefore to support your argument.
3. Defend each point with citations from the book you are analyzing. Beware of creating, as one of my teachers said, a “lacework of quotes.” Be sure to use citations to back up your arguments, not as an end in themselves or to fill up the page.
4. Conclude your paper with a summary that shows how the evidence you have presented supports your hypothesis.
5. Use paragraph structure carefully. Make sure each paragraph is a cohesive unit with a clear beginning that states the point of the paragraph, and make sure that each paragraph follows smoothly from the previous one, often using a transitional word or phrase.
6. Rewrite and revise. Make sure that your hypothesis is clearly stated, that your supporting points defend your argument well, that your use of citations from the text is adequate without being excessive, and that your conclusion sums up the purpose of your paper. Your reader should be satisfied that you defended your argument logically, and that you accomplished what you set out to do at the beginning of the paper.
7. Avoid plot summaries. Your paper should be an analysis, not a book report. If you must summarize the events in a scene in order to defend your point, do so briefly. Make sure the reader understands why you are summarizing portions of the plot.
8. Be sure to give the page numbers of all supporting quotations in the following format (125). If there is more than one author, then provide the author name and page number in your citations, like this (Pushkin, 125). If you are working with a text or edition other than the one listed in the syllabus, footnote which edition you are using.
9. Be careful with grammar. Avoid incomplete sentences (fragments). Break up sentences that are too long.
10. Be careful with mechanics. Use punctuation marks properly. If in doubt, look it up!
11. Be careful with spelling. Use a spelling checker and/or a dictionary conscientiously.
12. Follow Strunk and White’s premise: “Omit needless words.” In general, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is an excellent resource. There are numerous copies in the library, and you should be able to find it online as well.

Some Notes on What Distinguishes A Papers from B Papers:
1. The hypothesis or main idea goes beyond points discussed frequently in class. The author has thought about the class discussions and come to his or her own conclusions. The analysis goes further than a class discussion could go.
2. The writer probes deeply. His or her analysis reflects careful reading, thorough examination of the text, and an awareness of subtleties and nuances in the text itself.
3. The writer chooses a sufficiently narrow topic, so that the analysis can be more thoroughly developed.
4. The argumentation is clear, solid, and adequate. Transitions are smooth.
5. The paper holds together as a cohesive whole.
6. There is no evidence of padding. Every sentence is there for a reason.
7. The paper is free of typos, and of all spelling, mechanical, and grammatical errors.

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You Are Not Expected to Do the Following:Undergraduates are not expected to draw on secondary sources (literary criticism or biographical data, for example). Graduate students should consult with me about the use of secondary sources, as this course is primarily intended to analyze primary sources.If you do use any outside sources, however, be sure to cite them properly with footnotes (or endnotes) and a bibliography. See footnote 2 for guides to proper citation. You may use any established format for footnotes and bibliography, as long as you are consistent.

Some Suggestions about Writing:
1. Read carefully. Take notes on what you read. Write down the page numbers of excerpts from the text you find interesting or significant, so that you won’t have trouble finding them later. Otherwise, you will spend valuable writing time looking up page numbers.
2. Begin jotting down your ideas. Do not feel you need to begin with a strict outline. You can either begin by writing whatever is on your mind in free-flowing prose (freewriting) or making a cluster of related ideas, so that an outline can come out of that (mapping or clustering)
3. Then turn your initial jottings or “map” into an outline, so that you get a clear idea of the paper’s structure. Keep this outline in front of you as you write.
4. Do not feel you need to begin writing a draft from the beginning and in a linear fashion straight to the end. Make sure, however, that your opening paragraph, where you state your thesis, is in good shape, so that you know that your arguments are clearly supporting your main thesis.
5. Revise carefully. As most writing guides will tell you, good writing comes from revising. This takes time, so start early!

Papers must be typed in a 12-point standard font, with standard margins, and double-spaced.

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