Requirements for Research Papers in Nineteenth-Century British Literature

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College

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Note: Sections in boldface below indicate requirements that must be fulfilled to earn a satisfactory grade (C or above) on the research paper.  Use this page, especially the boldface portions, as a checklist while you complete and edit your paper. A B paper is above average and an A paper is excellent in its fulfillment of these requirements, with a precise,  insightful, well-focused thesis; effective, well-organized examples and discussion to support the thesis; sentences that are smoothly worded and clear; and few or no errors in proofreading or documentation.

  • The major paper (containing at least ten pages of discussion) can explore any aspect of nineteenth-century literature. The topic may overlap with your other shorter assignments or pursue a different subject. The paper must include some analysis of at least one primary work of literature (more than simply mentioning specific titles). Although your topic may connect literature with other subjects, be sure that you are writing a literature paper, and do not stray too far with general discussion of other issues involving social problems or teaching.  

  • You should have your definite topic approved no later than Dec. 1. The paper is due on Fri., Dec. 19 in the drop box. (Think about how it will affect your exam schedule if you choose to complete the paper during exam week.)

  • Everything in the paper should support a central thesis. I strongly recommend that you have your thesis approved before the paper deadline. Starting a final draft without a clearly stated thesis in the introduction can lead to multiple problems with unity, coherence, clarity and organization in both long and short papers.  It is often helpful to refine the thesis and revise the introduction after a draft of the whole paper is completed. Since writing is a process of discovering new ideas about your topic, ask yourself after completing the paper whether it is unified in support of the thesis as you originally formulated it, and whether the introduction could do a better job of leading into the precise focus and main idea of the paper once you have all the ideas worked out in a draft.

  • The paper must make reference to at least three secondary sources (reference books, reviews, critical books or articles, etc.), in addition to the primary work(s) of literature discussed. Personal letters, interviews, and Internet resources may be used, as long as they are reliable sources, they are documented accurately, and you have at least two or three written sources from edited books or periodicals (whether obtained online or elsewhere). Databases available in the library and through the library’s home page provide abstracts and full text of many articles online, as well as reference-book articles that give background on authors and full-text books online. For the MLA Bibliography and other reliable reference sources on literature such as  Contemporary Authors Online, in the Ferrum College Library web site, go to links for Resources by Subject, then Language and Literature, then MLA Bibliography or Literature Resource Center..

  • Sources must be documented accurately using MLA or APA format. The Little, Brown Handbook and Hacker's Rules for Writers give instructions for standard format in academic papers and preparation of research papers, including use of quotations and documentation (see also Little, Brown Handbook online guide to documentation). The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. (in reference section of our library) has more detail on MLA documentation. Some types of literature, such as illustrated books and folktales, may require that you indicate in citations the illustrator, translator, or editor of a work, or whether a book lacks pagination. (N. pag. is the MLA abbreviation used for unpaged books.)  If you have done background reading you want to acknowledge, in addition to the sources cited within the essay, you can label your reference list at the end Works Consulted instead of Works Cited.

  • Supporting materials (copies of letters or illustrations, samples of student work, etc.) may be attached in one or more appendices.  Make sure each appendix is clearly labeled and the reader of the paper can tell how it relates to specific parts of the paper.

  • All papers must be typed and double-spaced, with pages numbered. You can make last-minute corrections neatly in ink on the final typed copy if necessary.

  • Be sure to leave time to edit and proofread the paper carefully (including checking it after the final copy is printed). Check carefully throughout the paper for inconsistent verb tenses (a common and distracting error in literature papers) and other mechanical errors. I or professors in the Writing Center will advise on drafts of papers at your request. If a paper is submitted with frequent mechanical errors, imprecise and unclear wording, or multiple errors in the format of documentation, I reserve the right to stop marking specific errors and assign a grade of D or F.  For a review of common proofreading and editing problems, see Marking Symbols and Terms for English Papers.

  • As stated on the course syllabus, plagiarism or any other form of cheating will result in severe penalties, which may include failure of the course. You are responsible for reading and understanding the Ferrum College Honor Policy, and for avoiding the undocumented use of the words or ideas of others in your writing. If your paper involves literature not in the assigned texts for the course, be sure the professor has access to that literature. It is a good idea to keep copies of pages in secondary sources from which you take specific ideas, information, or quotations that you cite directly in papers.  I will not grade a paper if I have any questions about its use of sources, until those questions are answered and corrections are made if necessary.  If there is no time left at the end of the semester for corrections, papers with inadequate or inaccurate documentation will receive an automatic F.

College-wide writing requirements:

This course is designated as a Writing Intensive course; this list of requirements, adopted by the faculty in 2005-2006, will be helpful as you complete your research paper in this 300-level English course.

Students earning grades of C or higher in writing intensive courses demonstrate competence in the following areas:

  1. Appropriate presentation of content
  2. Evidence of effective college-level or professional writing skills, including
    1. unified focus and organization
    2. logical development of ideas and arguments
    3. precise and effective wording
    4. standard sentence structure and vocabulary
    5. avoidance of mechanical and grammatical errors
    6. complete and accurate documentation of sources
  3. Ability to adapt writing style to needs of various audiences
  4. Additional elements of format or design appropriate to the discipline and the particular assignment.


November 26, 2011

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