This assignment is designed to introduce you to the art of writing an academic research paper. It is your opportunity to create a piece of original scholarship showcasing your command of academic research and writing, and you should exit the course equipped with an excellent writing sample to send to prospective employers or educational institutions. As such, this paper must demonstrate your proficiency in academic writing, which requires clear, strong, concise, and error-free language and argumentation that persuades a reader to accept your analysis of and position on an important issue. You will need to demonstrate your proficiency in locating, understanding, analyzing, presenting, and citing research to support your claims in a way that also demonstrates your proficiency in Chicago style, mechanics, and citation.
- Self-Selected by you (in consultation with me)
- Aphorisms from Units 1 and 2 and the Aphorisms on Cultural Studies, Research, The Research Process, Finding Scholarship, Finding Shakespeare Scholarship, Abstracts, Literature Reviews, and Organization for Research Papers in the Humanities
Write a ten-page research paper that engages in a critical debate and advances an argument regarding Shakespeare’s popularity in a specific group or culture.
Your response to this topic could take any number of shapes. Your paper might focus the question of Shakespeare’s popularity by considering it in the context of a certain culture – e.g., philosophers, American pop culture, twentieth-century China – and it might make use of the empirical research you will produce in this unit. You could address Shakespeare’s cultural ascendency in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, or you could address Shakespeare’s lasting popularity today in the twenty-first century. But your paper will be, at its core, about the relationship between the way that Shakespeare created his art and the values of those who created and/or sustain his reputation. As such, your paper will need to provide a close reading of both Shakespeare’s artistic style (as you understand it from your reading of one or more of his plays) and the values of a specific culture (as you understand it from your independent research), all in an attempt to argue why Shakespeare is or isn’t popular in a certain culture or group.
Note that the assignment is to address Shakespeare’s popularity, not Shakespeare’s greatness. This essay is not the place to celebrate your favorite author. On a similar note, claims such as “because he represented truth,” “because he represented human nature,” and “because he represented reality” will be impossible to argue, not only because they offend the basic commitments of academic argumentation (specificity, particularity, complexity, clarity, nuance, and so forth), but also because they do not explain why Shakespeare is appealing to a particular culture or group.
As such, the first thing to do for this paper is to figure out the culture or group whose reception of Shakespeare you wish to consider. The next step will be to confirm the fact of Shakespeare's popularity (or the absence of popularity) in that culture or group, either through your reading of scholarly articles or through your own empirical research. Once you have established the fact of Shakespeare's popularity, the next step is to ask, Why? Your answer to this question will require research and reflection on both Shakespeare and the culture in question because your answer to this question will comprise your argument for your paper.
The foundation of a research paper is the same as that of a close reading: an original idea about a text. Where a close reading involves only the writer and the text, however, a research paper extends its scope to a number of various sources, sometimes involving multiple historical texts and contexts and sometimes involving one or more theoretical texts, but always making reference to an ongoing academic conversation related to the key text(s) of the paper. In order to generate an original idea that merits a research paper, your research process should begin with a close reading of one or more primary text(s), and it is imperative that you develop an original idea about your text(s) before moving to situate your idea among other sources. When you are ready to do so, you will employ the resources available to you through the library in order to discover, consider, and gain some degree of mastery over the materials and conversations relevant to your ideas about your primary text(s). How many secondary sources do you need? It depends (though more than 3 and fewer than 10 is a likely range). These parameters give you a significant amount of freedom. Nonetheless, your argument must – at some point and in some meaningful way – engage with a critical discussion or debate. As such, your preliminary work for this paper will involve two response papers:
- Response Paper 3.1: An Empirical Report: Write a short report presenting some original empirical data that you’ve generated on an issue related to Shakespeare’s popularity in a specific group or culture.
- Response Paper 3.2: An Annotated Bibliography: Prepare an annotated bibliography of scholarly sources that are relevant to the issue you’ll be examining in your research paper.
- Response Paper 3.3: An Abstract: Write a 300-word research proposal for your third essay.
In addition to the standard features of a close reading – most importantly, identifying a problem and providing evidence that receives analyses that add up to an argument which is previewed in the introduction of the paper with a thesis – your research paper should include three aspects of advanced academic writing:
- A literature review that discusses an academic conversation up to this point and justifies the need for an additional voice.
- Analyses that are aware of and responsive to relevant sources beyond the primary text(s) of the paper, whether those sources are historical, theoretical, or critical.
- A clear sense of the implications, or original contribution, of your argument for a distinct field of academic inquiry.
In sum, for this paper, you’ll be discovering (through your research) and making an original contribution to (through your argument) a specific scholarly conversation.
Your paper should:
- Be ten pages long;
- Be written in Chicago style (The Chicago Manual of Style is available through your Harvard affiliation; see also Wilson’s Sample Chicago Style Paper);
- Include a cover letter.
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Response Paper 3.1: An Empirical Report
This assignment is designed to introduce you to scholarly electronic databases, the research process in general, and empirical papers in the sciences. In the natural and social sciences, an empirical paper is a written report of a study conducted by the author(s). An empirical study (1) poses a question that can only be answered by gathering information not currently available to the researcher, (2) collects that information in some controlled way, and then (3) interprets that information.
- Hugh Grady, “Shakespeare Criticism, 1600-1900” (2001)
- R.S. White, “Shakespeare Criticism in the Twentieth Century” (2001)
- One of the following:
- Anston Bosman, “Shakespeare and Globalization” (2010);
- Paul Prescott, “Shakespeare and Popular Culture” (2010);
- Paul A. Kottman, “Why Think About Shakespearean Tragedy Today?” (2013)
- Aphorisms on Empirical Papers
Write a two- to three-page report of some empirical research related to Shakespeare’s popularity in a particular group or culture.
The readings for this unit will expose you to a number of interesting aspects of Shakespeare’s reception over time. Using those readings (and your own interests) as inspiration, this response paper is your opportunity to discover something new about Shakespeare’s reception in a certain context of your choosing. Your report will use an electronic database to gather quantitative data related to Shakespeare’s popularity or reputation over time, in different locations, and/or with respect to a certain group or culture. There are a number of forms your research project could take. You’ll probably want to start by clicking around some databases, doing some preliminary searching, and noting any interesting results that might point toward a question worth researching. Here are some databases you might consider:
- Google Ngram
- Early English Books Online (EEBO)
- Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO)
- Google Books
- Google Scholar
- MLA International Bibliography
- World Shakespeare Bibliography
- LexisNexis Academic
- The New York Times
- The London Times
For this assignment, regardless of which database you use, you may need to exploit the “advanced search” features of the database, which may require you to review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) or Help section of the site. As you search around these databases, look for patterns and peculiarities: trends over time, changes in trends, unexpected results, etc. You’ll want to do enough preliminary searching that you can formulate a research question which can actually be answered using a database. Here are some examples of viable research questions:
- Who was more popular in the seventeenth century, William Shakespeare or Ben Jonson?
- What was Shakespeare’s most popular work in the eighteenth century?
- Is Shakespeare’s popularity currently rising or declining in China?
- What year saw the most Shakespearean films released?
- Other than literary studies, what disciplines make the most references to Shakespeare?
Once you’ve formulated your own research question, you’ll have to think about which database to use to answer that question (it may be obvious from your preliminary searching). Then, you’ll need to think about and formalize the way that you’re searching in order to generate some quantitative data. Those data will be the evidence of your report (and, potentially, some of the evidence for your third essay). In many cases, it can be helpful to find a way to represent this data visually through some kind of graph or chart. Once you’ve identified, collected, and organized your evidence, you’ll of course need to analyze that evidence – to interpret and explain it. Finally, you’ll want to reflect briefly on potential directions for further thought. In sum, your report should be organized in four sections:
- Introduction: Introduce, frame, and state your research question(s) and describe the research project you conceived to answer your question(s).
- Evidence: Report the findings of your research, potentially including a visual aid.
- Analysis: Interpret the results of your research – i.e, generate an explanation, speculate on implications.
- Directions for Future Research: This report may serve as inspiration for and be incorporated into your third paper for our course, a research paper regarding Shakespeare’s reputation. What might a paper based on or including your empirical research look like? What questions might you ask?
Your report should:
- Be two- to three-pages long.
- Be written in MLA style, including a Works Cited page and proper in-text citations for any primary texts or secondary criticism cited.
- Sample Response Paper 3.1
- Sample Response Paper 3.1
Response Paper 3.2: An Annotated Bibliography
This assignment is designed to familiarize you with the most common and widely used resources in Literary Studies research; to help you develop skills in locating, reading, and evaluating sources; to give you practice in reviewing the critical literature on an issue of current interest; and to allow you to demonstrate your mastery of MLA-style documentation of sources.
- The Harvard Guide to Using Sources: Evaluating Sources, Avoiding Plagiarism, and Integrating Sources
- Aphorisms on Finding Scholarship, Finding Shakespeare Scholarship, and Annotations
Prepare an annotated bibliography of at least five scholarly sources that are relevant to the issue you’ll be examining in your research paper.
A “scholarly source” is a book or article that is peer-reviewed; “primary sources” (e.g., Shakespeare’s plays, adaptations, etc.) and “popular sources” (e.g., newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc.) have their place in a research project, but they are not “scholarly sources,” so they should not be included in your annotated bibliography.
Begin this assignment by using the library’s resources to locate scholarly sources relevant to your research topic. Pull together a list of at least 10 possible sources. Read each of those sources, noting the information you would need for an annotation of each. Then select 5 sources to annotate. Thus, your annotated bibliography will be organized into two parts:
- Part A: A Preliminary Bibliography presenting (in proper MLA style) citations of at least 10 possible sources for your research project.
- Part B: An Annotated Bibliography which selects at least five sources and offers annotations of those sources.
Using my “Aphorisms on Annotations” as a guide, each of your annotations should include a brief description of the author, text, method, argument, evidence, and utility of the source. At this point, you should not aim to evaluate your sources: you should instead focus on representing the information and argument in each source through summary, paraphrase, and quotation (using The Harvard Guide to Using Sources to ensure that your work with sources is responsible). The place for your evaluation of the voices in this scholarly conversation will be in the introduction to your research paper, but it is important to have a firm grasp on the conversation before you start trying to carve out a place for yourself in it.
Note that, in order for this response paper to be effective, your sources should all be interpretations of the same text or topic that you’re interpreting. You may be employing a certain theoretical source as a lens in your final research paper, but that “theoretical citation” shouldn’t appear in this annotated bibliography. Limit yourself to what we’ve called “critical citations.” But what if there’s no scholarship out there on your topic? What if, for instance, no scholars have yet written about Shakespeare and House of Cards? That’s, in fact, a good position to be in – because it means that there is a need for scholarship on your topic – but, for the purposes of this bibliography, you need to conceptualize your topic in broad enough terms that you’re tapping into an existing scholarly conversation (e.g., the Shakespeare and House of Cards project could benefit from an annotated bibliography on “Shakespeare and Twenty-First-Century Television”).
The document you submit should:
- Be written in MLA style, including proper references and in-text citations, though the document can be single-spaced and no “Works Cited” page is needed.
- Sample Response Paper 3.2
- Sample Response Paper 3.2
Response Paper 3.3: An Abstract
This assignment is designed to give you experience writing abstracts, an important aspect of scholarly writing. An abstract is a brief summary of your paper written to allow others to determine if your paper contains information of sufficient interest for them to read. Procedurally, an abstract is often written and submitted as a proposal for a paper yet to be written, which is how we will be writing abstracts.
Write a 300-word abstract for the paper you plan to write for your Unit 3 essay.
In order to write an abstract, you must have a fairly solid sense of the materials you’ll be addressing in your paper – whether they are textual, historical, or citational evidence. In negotiating these various fields of evidence, it is easy to forget that the whole point of academic writing is to produce an original argument about a text or topic that needs to be interpreted. This abstract is your opportunity to gauge your preparedness to write a first draft of your paper: Do you have an original argument, and do you know how it fits into an ongoing academic conversation?
It may be helpful to begin this assignment by diagraming the kinds of evidence you plan to present in your paper. Then, you might write out the elements of academic argument for your paper. You might even want to create a basic outline of your paper so that you can provide an effective overview.
When it comes time to write the actual abstract, use my Aphorisms on Abstracts as a guide. Your abstract should include a brief description of your text, problem (both textual and critical), method, argument, evidence, and implications.
Note that this abstract is the best opportunity for me to provide substantive feedback on your research project before you start drafting the actual paper. The better and more specific your abstract is, the better and more specific my feedback can be.
The document you submit should:
- Be about 300 words long;
- Be written in MLA style, though the document can be single-spaced and no “Works Cited” page is needed.
- Sample Response Paper 3.3
- Sample Response Paper 3.3