Writing about Literature

Writing about Literature
Seminar Paper vs Research Paper
TDK 24 Feb 2012
The literary essay
Flexible form – formal or informal
when informal: ideas are presented
and argued
supported by quotations
Periodicals with literary essays
• TLS The Times Literary Supplement
• London Review of Books
• The New York Review of Books
The academic essay
Tends to be formal, with a set of rules
depending on the area of expertise
Disciplines covered by SEAS:
Examples from DES
• angolPark
• The AnaChronisT
Style guide for literature:
e.g., MLA Handbook for Writers of
Research Papers (Joseph Gibaldi)
For a seminar paper
• Check requirements of instructor, concerning
theme, content, method, form
• Select a work or a problem that is of interest to you.
• Choose a title that describes a question or problem.
• Collect the points that you want to make, and build
an argument from them.
• Support your points and arguments by quotations
from the work(s) in question, using critical sources
as well. Always provide the source of your
• In the introduction explain what you want to do, such
as analyse a book from a certain point of view;
compare the treatment of a problem in two or more
works; describe a feature of an author's style or other
strategy in two or more works by the same author;
discuss a more theoretical question of literature using
works as examples. Problems to discuss and features to
analyse include narration, characterisation, structure,
style, motifs, use of symbols, treatment of social or
moral issues.
• Then go ahead and write an interesting, argumentative
• In your conclusion summarise your results. What have
you learnt from all your work? How could you sum up
your most important discoveries for someone new to
your topic?
For a research paper
Choose a topic
Write a project proposal
Gather background information
Have something to say
Arrange your points, make your thought processses
• Write it up in clear but formal academic English
• Format your work in accordance with style guides
• Well researched topics:
lots of references are available
YOU have to provide a new approach
• Novelty topics:
not much competition but difficult to
find supporting evidence
dangers of being too interdisciplinary
dangers of having to do too much for
one work or one person
Project proposal
A project proposal (for a paper, a thesis or a
book) is a strategic presentation of the scope,
aims, method and projected outcome of the
proposed research. Please do not write a
general introduction to your topic as a project
proposal. This is the place to outline what
point you might want to concentrate on, how
you want to go about discussing them, what
you are hoping to achieve by doing so.
Background information
See the difference between
• what YOU needed to know in order to
write your paper - more of this for a sem papr
• What YOUR READERS need to know in order to
understand your paper – this is what you
need to include
at the appropriate
Taking notes
Build a list of works consulted for easy reference
Keep YOUIR ideas and ideas you FOUND separate
Save quotations (with reference)
Highlight key words (to see connections)
Write your own ideas and comments on quote
these will be the building blocks of the main body
of your work
Contribute something to the accumulated body
of knowledge and ideas:
renew shemata,
make sg appear new and interesting,
whether the focus is
• Arrange your points and make your thought
processes visible.
• Draw a tree: make a visual representation of
the structure of your paper.
• Observe your tree: reconsider line of
argumentation to follow the
proportions you see.
• Revisit your tree periodically.
Writing it up
Where to put references (in text)
Where to put asides (footnotes, endnotes)
Where to put helpful extra material (appendix)
Where to put quotations (text, footnotes,
endnotes, appendix?)
• What language to quote (original? language of
• What language to write your paper in?
Donald Hall and Sven Birkerts
Writing Well
Longman 9th ed.
Beth S. Neman
Teaching Students to Write
Oxford University Press 2nd ed.
Critical Thinking
The Act of Writing
Writing with Purpose
• Consult required style guides
• online: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/
Joseph Gibaldi:
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
New York: The Modern Language Association of America (7th
Style Guides