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English 102 Essay 4: Literary Research Essay Assignment (First Draft)

Your last written assignment for this class is a 6 to 8-page, 1,500 to 1,800-word research essay on a current issue or an enduring question of your choice. The First Draft should be Five to Ten paragraphs in length and does not require the use of sources. You will use documented source material to support your essay’s thesis.

One of your sources for this essay must be chosen from among the stories, poems, plays, or novel listed on our reading list (please see the Syllabus). A research essay presents and develops a thesis supporting multiple sources of opinion. You stake out a subject narrow enough to be researched and you steep yourself in it. Then you formulate a thesis — your own attitude or opinion on the subject — and present it in a persuasive form, along with facts, opinions, and information that prove it true. You should use appeals and other methods to support your thesis, but you should also analyze each source you plan to use to support your thesis.


There are two parts to a Research Essay:

The text (six or more pages and 1,500 to 1,800 words)

The works cited page (one or more pages)


Much of the writing in your research essay comes from the work of other writers, and you must give proper credit by citing (mentioning) these sources in your paper. The art of citing is called documentation, which is required for any information falling into the following three categories:

Any judgment, opinion, speculation or theory that is not original (unless it is universally known and accepted).

Any fact or statistic open to dispute.

Any information provided by a specific observer, even by an expert in his or her field (for example, opinions of psychologists on child abuse).


You will use quotations to include information from your sources in your essay. For example, if you were quoting a Newsweek magazine article on the Virgin Mary by Kenneth L. Woodward, you could write:

Kenneth L. Woodward, in his article on the Virgin Mary, writes that “the 20th century has belonged to Mary” (49).


According to Kenneth L. Woodward, the 20th century has “belonged to Mary” (49).


Kenneth L. Woodward writes: “The 20th century has belonged to Mary” (49).

You will use the MLA (Modern Languages Association) style for parenthetical documentation to list your sources on your Works Cited page, which is the last page of your essay.

You must use at least four sources (one or more from each of the following categories) and list them on your works cited page:

one book;

one periodical (magazine, journal or newspaper) article;

one website;

one “multimedia” source: a film, video, DVD, painting, musical piece, etc.).

These sources should be listed in alphabetical order, by the author’s last name. Your source listings for books should look like this: Author’s last name, author’s first name, title of book, name of publisher, and year of publication.

For example, if we were listing author Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Bean Trees:

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. HarperCollins, 1988.

(The publisher and year of publication can usually be found at the beginning of a book, before the title page.)

Your source listings for articles should look like this: Author’s last name, author’s first name, title of article, name of magazine or newspaper, date of article, article’s page numbers.

For example, if we were listing Kenneth L. Woodward’s Newsweek article, “Hail, Mary”:

Woodward, Kenneth L. “Hail, Mary.” Newsweek. August 25, 1997: pp. 49-55.

Writing research essays is not as complicated as it sounds. Keep this sheet handy, think carefully about the subject you write about, and see me if you have any questions.

Here is a list of possible topics for you to choose from. This includes topics you already wrote about in class. You must make reference to one or more imaginative literature sources (fiction, poetry, or drama) that are mentioned in our Syllabus.

Dagoberto Gilb, Sandra Cisneros, and the Latinx Experience in Literature.

Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, and the African-American Experience in Literature.

Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, and the Literature of Utopia and Dystopia.

Tim O’Brien, Wilfred Owen, and the Literature of War.

Tillie Olson, Susan Glaspell, and Feminist Literature.

William Shakespeare, John Donne, and the Literature of Romantic Love.

Ancient versus Modern Drama.

Technology and the Future.

Romantic Love versus Family Love.

William Butler Yeats and the Literature of Apocalypse.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the Magical Realism Movement.

Peer Review Questions:

Please answer two or more of the following questions about your partner’s draft:


How does the first paragraph introduce both the paper’s topic and the writer’s approach or general conclusion?

Identify the author’s thesis statement. Consider whether or not the thesis is clear and understandable. If it is, rewrite it in the space below. If it is not, write a possible suggestion.


What are the main concepts explored in the paper?

Does each paragraph make a relevant point that is distinct from what has already been covered?


Where in the essay are you least convinced by the author’s argument or point? What could be done to improve this part of the essay?

Where in the paper is the connection to the thesis most clear? Least clear?


If you find an awkward sentence, indicate where it is located and why it does not make sense to you.

What is/are the paper’s greatest strength(s)? Please explain.

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