English 1B
Research Paper
Fall 2004


Like previous essays you have written for this class, you will have the opportunity to write a literary analysis on a work or works of your choosing for the research paper (5-6 pages, NOT including works cited list). Unlike previous essays, you will draw from at least three outside sources (essays, books, book chapters, journal articles, online articles) to support your thesis. You must document all outside sources with in-text citations that follow MLA format. You must also include a works cited list, also in MLA format, at the end of your essay.


Other requirements:

You are responsible for choosing a text that we are reading in class, as well as for picking your own topic. You must also choose the context from which you will analyze your text, such as literary (e.g. formalist, archetypal), historical, gender (e.g. feminist), psychological, etc.

Your main goal is to isolate a specific aspect of the text, or an issue it explores, and explain its significance to your reader. Your essay will be primarily YOUR analysis of the text, with only OCCASIONAL reference to the secondary sources you find.

You may pick any sources you wish, as long as they are reputable and relevant to your thesis. (Avoid sources that are too complicated or too simplistic.) If you have any questions about the reliability or relevance of your source, ask me.

(Students who do not choose a topic in a timely fashion will be assigned one. If you write on poetry, you must pick another poem we have read in class or another by the same author to include in your research.)


Suggestions for choosing a topic and developing a thesis:

Everyone should begin by picking a story and theme that intrigues or puzzles you (evil in Othello; doctors or mental illness in Mrs. Dalloway or “The Yellow Wallpaper,” etc.). Then, one way to proceed is to pick a technical aspect we have discussed in class, such as symbolism, plot, irony, etc, and explain how it functions in your text. For example, you might want to find out more about the light/dark imagery in Othello, the use of the flashback in Mrs. Dalloway, or religious imagery in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Another possibility would be to begin with a theme or issue that interests you, but instead of proceeding from a “literary” context, begin with a “historical” one. For example, you might find articles on Victorian birth practices or attitudes towards motherhood and apply what you learn to a reading of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” With a historical approach, your goal is to explain how social and historical “facts” and circumstances help us better understand an issue the author raises in his or her story, poem, play, or novel.


You might get some ideas by looking at these literary criticism sites:

  • Literary Criticism from the Internet Public Library. Links to over 4,000 critical and biographical websites about authors and their works. They can be browsed by author, by title, or by nationality and literary period.
  • Literature Resource Center, a database available from the Gavilan Library. You can search by author, title, author type, or literary historical timeline. If you are accessing this from off-campus, you will be asked for a password. Use gavilan.
  • Kate Chopin, a Re-Awakening, from PBS. Look through the Interviews section for her views on feminism, slavery, and more. The Additional Resources section also has a list of websites that review and critique Chopin's work.
  • Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This article originally appeared in the October 1913 issue of The Forerunner.
  • Classic Notes on the Yellow Wallpaper. Full summary and analysis of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, written by Harvard students.
  • Bradley on Othello, a criticism of the play. Also click on the link at the bottom, Back to the Bard Room, for more Shakespeare websites.
  • Classic Notes on Mrs. Dalloway. Full summary and analysis of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, written by Harvard students.
  • Google, the infamous Internet search engine, will help you find more information about your specific topic. Ask a reference librarian for help in designing your search strategy.


Last updated on September 30, 2004
Address of this website:

Back to the Gavilan Library Class Websites page