Research Paper

ENGL 1102 Research Paper Assignment Sheet

Length: Minimum of 1200 Words

Format:  10-12 point font, Times New Roman, Double-Spaced.

Submission: An electronic copy of your research paper must be submitted through Blackboard in the Research Paper Drop Box in the Research Paper Folder before 11:55 pm on the paper’s due date.  Papers not submitted through this drop box cannot be graded so emailing your paper instead will not suffice.

Assignment:   For this essay, you will need to select a playwright and write a research paper which offers some insight into the playwright’s background and/or career AND ALSO analyzes one of his or her plays.  You should include the background information about the playwright in the first part of your paper.  In the second part, you should analyze a particular piece of work from the playwright.  Your thesis should clear, focused, and clearly identifiable in the first or second paragraph of the paper.  It can be explanatory, interpretative, or evaluative, but it should include literary techniques such as theme, symbolism, point of view, setting, character, etc.  Textual support in the form of concrete, specific examples should be provided in the body of your paper in order to support your claim.

Remember, a thesis is comprised of the following components:


The topic would be the play, the claim is whatever specific conclusion you’ve come to about the playwright and the work, and for points of support you will have to analyze elements of the play using one of the critical approaches we’ve studied this semester. 

About the paper’s content:

Like your other papers, you are simply trying to explain to the reader a way of understanding or interpreting the play. To a degree, you are arguing that your way of seeing the work is a more reasonable way than some other. Unlike your previous papers, however, you will also be using your research (incorporating secondary sources) to further support your claim or analysis of the work.

For Trifles, there are many options.  You could examine how the play reflects addressed issues of gender, or gender inequality, and use the formalist method (analyzing the playwright’s use of literary devices) to support claim.

For A Doll’s House, certainly a formalist, Marxist, Feminist, or Gender approach could work, although you are not limited to any of these.  Since we are doing research for this essay, you can also use a biographical or historical approach with any of the plays.  However, keep in mind that your goal should be the same as in the other papers (to shed light on the meaning of the work as literature); don’t get sidetracked into writing primarily about biography or history.

For Death of a Salesman, you could discuss the playwright’s use of literary devices to explain the theme of the play (the point he’s trying to make about the identity, family, and/or the American Dream, for example).

Must Haves:  In any good research paper, you must pull from reliable, creditable sources in order to support your thesis.  You should use at least four references from appropriate print sources.  The play you are analyzing will count as one of these print sources—the other three should be from appropriate academic secondary sources.  The main place you should use to find print sources online is our library’s database, Galileo.  There are plenty of sources available online at   Always click full text to access complete sources.  The databases you want are under the letter “L.”  Both “LION” and the “Literary Reference Center” will give you plenty of sources.  Type in the author’s last name for a number of sources.  You can also type in the author’s last name and a critical perspective as well.  For instance, “Glaspell” and “Feminism.”

However, you can also use any other reputable database (ex. Google Scholar).  You should cite these sources using MLA style.  If you need help, Pellissippi State Library has a great webpage about how to cite a play:  Though this is a research paper, quotes from other sources should not outweigh your own writing and analysis.

Whatever approach you take, remember that the research should be used

  1. to provide additional authoritative support for your ideas/thesis
  2. to provide a context or background for your ideas/thesis.

Also, make sure to work in your quotations smoothly, rather than dropping them into the text without any introductory material.  For instance, use transitional phrases, such as “In Emily Dickinson, Harold Bloom argues that….” and “Unlike other critics, Bloom in Emily Dickinson suggests….” Remember to help your reader see where someone else’s ideas begin by using these transitional phrases and where someone else’s ideas end by including a page number or other indicator at the end.  Here’s a complete sentence quoted and cited: “Literary critic Harold Bloom asserts, ‘The image here of a woman and her escort, Death, meditating on the prospect of eternity, is neither one of despair nor loss nor outrage, but of resignation’ (37).”  Then always make sure to follow a quote by discussing, or reiterating, its relevance to your claim or what you’re discussing.