Final Research Assignment

Barry Mauer and John Venecek

Note to students: the assignment below may be modified or replaced with a different assignment by your instructor.

“Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not the imbecilic capitalist machinery, in which the publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs.”

– Hélène Cixous

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

“Don’t be ‘a writer’. Be writing.”

– William Faulkner

The purposes of the final research paper are to

  • use your research skills
  • apply your knowledge of literary theory and methodology to interpret, critique, historicize, or creatively adapt a work of literature
  • apply best writing practices, explained in this text, to produce a strong argument within a polished academic research project

Your work must be aimed at publication in a literary studies journal or other professional venue (conference, platform, etc.). You may actually submit your work to the journal or platform, but it is not required to do so for the assignment. The project should be accompanied with a brief note to the prospective journal or platform (so your instructor knows which one you are aiming for).

You must include at least three outside sources (in other words, sources that have not been assigned to the class) in your research project. The three works you choose to cite must be scholarly works; in other words, they must be from scholarly journals, books, or websites. You may cite additional, non-scholarly works, but do not do so exclusively. The total length for a conventional essay is 5-20 pages. Journal articles are usually between 300-6000 words. Essays are not your only option, however, and you may produce a graphic work, conference presentation, video, exhibit, or other form of work. See Presenting Your Research Visually: Academic Posters and Slides, if you are interested in using these media.

Your project must include an abstract, as well as a review of literature (see the Types of Literature Reviews page for advice on how to develop your annotated bibliography into a literature review), a properly formatted works cited page, and all of the components we have covered so far (research question, thesis statement, title, etc.). You may choose MLA, APA, or Chicago as your style guide. These components should be integrated into the paper. The abstract can serve as the first paragraph and the review of literature can be in one place in the paper (usually close to the beginning) or may be distributed throughout (particularly if your review touches on different topics).

The skills involved in producing this project are required in upper division literature courses. The skills you learn and demonstrate in this work are also transferable to any activity that requires careful reading, critical thinking, rhetoric ability, and effective writing.

Make sure you refer to this textbook for instructions about writing the essay.

Sample rubric
Criteria %


Has cogent analysis, shows command of interpretive and conceptual tasks required by assignment and course materials: ideas original, often insightful, going beyond ideas discussed in lecture and class.


Commands attention with a convincing argument with a compelling purpose; highly responsive to the demands of a specific writing situation; sophisticated use of conventions of academic discipline and genre; anticipates the reader’s need for information, explanation, and context.


Essay controlled by clear, precise, well-­defined thesis; is sophisticated in both statement and insight.

Development and Support

Well-chosen examples; uses persuasive reasoning to develop and support thesis consistently; uses specific quotations, statistics, aesthetic details, or citations of scholarly sources effectively; logical connections between ideas are evident. MLA, APA, or Chicago citation is used correctly.


Well-constructed paragraphs; appropriate, clear, and smooth transitions; arrangement of organizational elements seems particularly apt.


Uses sophisticated sentences effectively; usually chooses words appropriately; observes professional conventions of written English and manuscript format; makes few minor or technical errors.
Total %: 100


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