English 233D | Narratives of Exile

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paper-writing guide
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class photo album

mechanics help

For due dates, check the syllabus and the sign-up sheet.
Papers are due no later than beginning of class on the due date, which is always exactly one week after you presented the paper in class.
It's always OK to hand in papers early.
Late papers will be penalized at the rate of one grade increment per every day or fraction of a day that they are late.

Formatting & Style
Type your paper using a 10- or 12-point font.
Use 1-inch margins on sides, top, and bottom.
Number the pages.
Your paper must have a title that describes its thesis.
Staple or paper-clip the pages together.
Use nonsexist (inclusive) language
Papers that are inadequately formatted will be penalized.

Proofread twice.  Computer spell-checkers are unreliable.
Make last-minute corrections on your paper in ink.
You are permitted a maximum of one error of grammar, spelling, or punctuation per page. 
Papers with excessive errors will be heavily penalized. A paper with dozens of mechanical errors may be returned with no feedback and a grade. (This is because your mechanics problems have consumed all the time I have been able to allot to evaluating your paper.)

Citing Sources
All direct quotations and paraphrases of textual material must be cited.  This means that if you quote or paraphrase the course text or someone who helped you with your paper, you must cite the source.

Use MLA-style parenthetical course citations and a Works Cited List. 
Papers with inadequately documented sources will be heavily penalized and may cause you to fail (1) the assignment or (2) the course.  You are responsible for understanding  the College's academic honesty policies, which are laid out in the St. John Fisher College Student Handbook. 

Choosing  a Topic
How should you go about choosing a topic?
Select a topic that truly interests you.  What about the text caught your eye - pleased you, made you angry, or stuck in your mind?  Do you have any unanswered questions about the text?  Did someone say something about the text that intrigued you?
If the existing paper topics don't interest you, consult with me; I can help you develop a topic you will enjoy exploring.

A thesis sentence provides a brief description of what the paper will argue and why this argument is significant.   Simply describing or listing things that happen in a text is not enough. You must explain why these things and the patterns they form are important. 

The thesis statement is like a road map that tells your reader where you're going and how you plan to get there. An effective thesis statement also interests the reader in coming along for the ride. Your "road map" - a one- or two-sentence summary of your argument - belongs on the first page, often in the first paragraph. 

Most writers don't discover their thesis sentence immediately.  It generally appears in the last paragraph of their paper.

1. Thesis-generation is difficult, so use a 10- or 15-minute conference with me or with another student to help bring your argument into focus.
2. Write early and often. Remember that most people "write to learn" - that is, they discover a thesis in the process of writing.
3. Don't be afraid to write several drafts and to dump false starts or unrelated digressions. Revision always pays off.

Support any generalizations you make with textual evidence. Think of yourself as a lawyer who has to provide evidence for every assertion you make - otherwise, the jury won't be convinced.

A combination of indirect and direct quotation usually works well. Generalizations unsupported by textual evidence usually fail, partly because writers who don't support generalizations with evidence tend to make faulty judgments. (The process of generating evidence keeps you accurate.) Explain what each quotation means and why it's important.

Secondary Sources
Secondary sources are critical treatments of a text (such as essays and books about a particular work) or an author.  While these sources are fascinating, it's best to avoid them and instead to rely on your own investigation of a topic. 

Exceptions:  if the assignment specifically calls for you to do research, or if you choose to use dictionaries or encyclopedia. Remember that you must cite anything you quote directly or paraphrase using inline citations in MLA and a Works Cited list.

st. john fisher college
rochester, NY 14618
©Lisa Jadwin, 1997-2008. All rights reserved.
Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2008.