Research Project: American Authors Mr. Ruekberg
I. Choose an author for your Literary Criticism Research Paper. You should read at least one complete
work by this author (Independent Reading). Your paper will include the following:
A. Background: Show how the author’s life, works, and times connect.
B. Analysis (Literary Criticism):
1. Why is the author considered an important part of our culture?
2. What themes is the author most known for?
3. What other literary elements does the author use especially well (pick at least 2.)?
C. Kinds of sources: You will answer these questions using the following sources
1. Using published criticism. Be sure to cite sources. You will learn some note-taking techniques.
2. Your own analysis, based on the work you read (just as you would for a work read in class).
II. Purpose and audience: Develop a thesis that informs an intelligent reader of your age about the author’s
importance. A thesis is an opinion statement that can be proven using details and discussion. The thesis
should be stated simply, but lead to an developed discussion.
III. Length: Your paper should be between 1,200 – 1,500 words (the equivalent of 4-5 pages), typed, double-
spaced. MLA format is required (parenthetical documentation, with endnotes).
IV. Independent Reading: A “work” is
A. Fiction: a novel, or eight or more short stories.
B. Poetry: a book of poetry (not a chapbook). This may be an original edition or a collection of the
C. Drama: a full-length play, or three one-act plays (depending on length)
D. Literary or Personal Essay: a memoir, or collection of eight or more essays (depending on length)
V. Sources: You must use at least one of each of the following kinds of sources, 5 or more sources total.
A. Book: containing biography, literary criticism, etc. It might be a book by a single critic, or a collection
of critical essays, including NCLC, TCLC, or CLC (the big brown Gale books).
B. Internet Literary Criticism: From reliable, professional critics, including:
1. Literary criticism
2. Universities (work by teachers, not students)
3. Online databases
C. Not allowed: Online encyclopedias (Wikipedia, etc.) or homework-help sites(such as SparkNotes) are
not allowable sources for research. They may be useful to you in beginning your research or adding to
your understanding, but you may not use them as part of your actual paper. This is a rule in high
schools and colleges across the country.
VI. Steps in the process:
A. Preliminary bibliography: Find out if there is enough material on your author.
1. Login to The Twayne Authors Series - Twayne World, English, and US Authors. (PW: empirelink)
2. Contemporary Literary Criticism (PW: remote)
3. Use the school library and Monroe County libraries at libraryweb.org.
B. Read your independent reading book by the author.
C. Begin doing research, taking notes, and developing a preliminary thesis.
D. Continue doing research and taking notes, adjusting your thesis as you need to.
E. Write a working outline and begin drafting your paper.
F. Revise your paper, write a final outline, and write your final draft.
A preliminary bibliography tells you if you have enough sources. If you can only find two sources,
that’s not enough! Find a new author! Your preliminary bibliography should include at least five sources.
You may not wind up using them, or you may add others, but this tells you if you have enough to start.
Note-cards or note-sheets are required! Keep your notes simple. Paraphrase, use fragments, symbols,
abbreviations. These speed up note-taking, and help avoidplagiarism. Key your notes to your bibliography.
Plagiarism in whole or part is an automatic zero! Don’t do it! Cite everything!