Purpose of the Research Assignment

Purpose of the Research Assignment

Writing Assignment: An Interdisciplinary Research Paper

Purpose of the Research Assignment

The goal of the research assignment in English Composition II is to expand your research skills and challenge your capacity to apply the information you find to support an argument.

The Approach

You are going to do non-literary research that grows from one of the pieces of literature you've read for this course, and then explain how that research informs your reading of the text. When I say "non-literary" I mean that I don't want you to do research from literary criticism. You may choose to write about a single non-literary aspect or choose multiple aspects of one work. The other basic requirement is that you use college level sources. In fact, one of the main goals of this project is to give you practice at evaluating sources.

When you've done your research, you'll look at the work of literature again and do an analysis based on your reading. What does your research bring to your understanding of the text? That is your key question.

If you are still confused about the assignment it’s probably because no one has ever asked you to approach reading literature this way—it’s decidedly non-literary. But it also gives you a kind of practice that is very useful for other college courses.

Choosing a Topic

In English Comp II I assume that you already know the basics of research, having done that in English Comp I and perhaps having written papers for non-English courses. I hope you won't be offended, however, if we do some review early in this project.

It's important that you choose a topic that interests you. You have to spend about a month researching and writing. You have to find and read at least 10 sources that you could use for your paper. (I do this to encourage you to look for the best sources, not just the first 6 that pop up.) You'll be spending a lot of time with the subject, so look for something that pulls you in.

The point of your research is to learn non-literary things that you can bring back to your work of literature and discuss how your research illuminates your understanding of the story, poem or play. You may choose to do research in more than one area of a work, but if you do that you have to bring the aspects together in your analysis of the literature.

Some Examples of Topics

We will be generating possible topics as a group. Although we haven't read a great deal of material, there are lots of possibilities. I'll accept any topic that connects to a work and has enough source material out there. (If you have a keen interest in something that has no correlate in anything we’ve read, let me know and I’ll try to find a story that allows you to do research in your topic of interest.)

• If we had read Walt Disney’s version of “Cinderella” for class, you might choose to do sociological and psychological research on stepfamilies. Your paper might focus on an interpretation of the tale’s presentation of the stepfamily as either typical or atypical.

• For the last paper, different students in class chose to research “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot.” Students looked at the topics of jealousy and reincarnation. There are other topics possible with this story, too. You may choose to do research in one area (reincarnation, for example) or multiple areas (reincarnation and jealousy). But your focus will still be on the single work of literature.


1. Write 7-8 pages, using MLA internal citation. (The Works Cited page doesn't count in the page requirement).

2. Find a minimum of 12 college-level sources on your topic. (You’re required to locate more sources than you are required to cite.)

3. Cite in your essay, at least once each, a minimum of 6 sources (This does not include the story or play you are writing about.)

  • At least 3 of your 6 sources must be from scholarly journals. (You may use more.) You will locate these in RVCC's databases.
  • The remaining 3 may also be articles from journals or newspapers, or they may be books or reliable web sites. Subject area encyclopedias such as The Encyclopedia of Religion or The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences and other advanced reference books are fine. General encyclopedias are not. (See below.)

Sources you may not cite because they are not college level:

  • Any general encyclopedia such as Britannica or Wikipedia
  • Online compilations such as About.com or Associated Content
  • Any source published for children or listed as 'Juvenile' in its library heading
  • Any other source that is not college level(Since you'll be submitting a preliminary bibliography, I'll help you to determine what's appropriate.)

4. Submit everything— preliminary bibliography, thesis draft, rough drafts etc. then the final paper—on time. One third of your project grade will be determined by timeliness.

  • To get full credit, each step has to be complete and on time.
  • Preliminary bibliography of 10 sources (25 pts.)
  • Writing plan or graphic organizer (10 pts.)
  • 3 pages of rough draft (15 pts.)
  • Participation in workshop with copies of full rough draft (30 pts.)
  • Conference with me or with a tutor in the Academic Support Center (20 pts.)
  • Of course, you are also required to submit your paper on time. One grade will be deducted for each day of lateness.
  • You are also required to submit copies of all your sources with your paper. Put everything in a paper folder.

5. Follow everything on the Research Paper Rubric (see below), which lists the same requirements as Essay 2 but with the addition of elements of research and citation.

RESEARCH PAPER / Excellent: Exhibits style and/or sophistication / Good: Exceeds expectations / Acceptable: Meets expectations / Unacceptable: Does not meet expectations
Thesis: Extent to which it is clear and asserts an arguable point / Is a 1-2 sentence statement that is arguable, complex and interesting. / Is a 1-2 sentence statement that is arguable and identifies the writer’s position. / Is a 1-2 sentence statement that is broadly arguable and connects the literary text to the research. / Is incomplete, not arguable, or off topic.
Argument: Extent to which thesis is supported / Supported with materials from text and sources that are apt and interesting.
Well developed. Demonstrates complex understanding of the literature and sources. / Supported with relevant references to the text and sources.
Well developed.
Demonstrates clear understanding of the lit and sources. / Supported with adequate reference to text and sources.
Meets length requirement.
Demonstrates a general understanding of the lit and sources. / Support is weak, absent or consists of summary without application.
One + pages under or over requirement.
Demonstrates some misunderstanding of the lit or sources.
Extent to which essay exhibits logical ordering of ideas. / Structure is logical and coherent.
Sources and literary text integrated.
Transitions graceful. / Structure is logical and coherent.
Sources and literary text linked.
Transitions clear. / Structure evident.
Sources and literary text brought together.
Transitions adequate. / Organization is confusing.
Sources not clearly linked to literary text.
Transitions weak or missing.
Sources & Documentation / Variety of excellent sources.
No errors in documentation. / Variety of good sources.
Only minor errors in documentation. / Sources meet requirements.
Documentation not confusing. / Sources do not meet requirements.
Documentation confusing or absent.
Conclusion: Extent to which essay’s point and main argument are restated / Interesting, developed and provides a satisfying close to the essay. / Developed and provides a satisfying close to the essay. / A summary of the essay’s main points. / Underdeveloped or missing.
Language: Extent to which words are used effectively and sentences are well constructed / Sophisticated, interesting and precise.
Sentences flow. / Precise.
Sentences flow. / Appropriate.
Few errors in sentence structure. / Confusing, inappropriate or incoherent.
Many errors in sentence structure.
Details of composition: Extent to which essay is free of patterned errors / No errors. / No serious errors. / No pattern of serious errors. / Errors of a number and kind to impede communication.
Process / All steps completed on time. / All but 1 step completed on time. / 2 or more steps were not completed on time.