Your major paper will be an essay for which you do substantial research beyond the textbook and present an original thesis supported by your research. This research paper must be a minimum of 1500 words and must follow the Requirements, Tips, and Best Practices in your syllabus. It must reference at least three sources BEYOND your textbook, and follow MLA, APA, or CMS guidelines for citation, and must include a Works Cited or Bibliography (your preference). [See the Writing handout for information on how to construct your paper. If you do not know how to construct a research paper and cite source material, seek help! Failure to cite is plagiarism, and improper citations will result in a substantially lower grade for the assignment.]
Your paper may address any topic from any time period in the Humanities (ideally, something covered or at least introduced in the text). Good topics center around, or at least work within the context of, major themes or movements (“isms”) in the Humanities, and they reveal something beyond that which is discussed in class. In other words, the research helps illuminate the basic information. You may write about something as general as “Greek Classical Humanism,” or “Romantic Poetry,” or “Northern vs. Italian Renaissance Styles,” or “Architectural Continuity throughout Centuries,” or as specific as “Depictions of John the Baptist in the Baroque,” “Sir Christopher Wren’s Influences,” “Images of the Other in Romantic Exoticism,” or “The Relationship between Renaissance Music and Architecture,” or “Impressionism and Philosophy,” etc. However: papers cannot be just a book report, a catalog of everything you know on the topic at hand.
The main requirement is that your paper be a research paper that seeks to answer a question. This research paper is about proving something. The writer should come up with a question or hypothesis, then use research as the means to answer the question or prove the hypothesis. The paper should be a presentation of original ideas (analysis of images, works of literature/music/philosophy/drama; intuitive leaps; or educated guesses) backed up with facts from research or information gained through thoughtful analysis.
What this paper should not be: a book report. Biographies, summaries of information, narratives that describe every painting/poem/musical composition created by an artist, are of zero scholarly value. If people need this kind of information, they can Google the topic. This paper must be a work of original scholarship, in other words, it should take the form of, “This is what I think, and all these (properly cited) reasons are why I think I’m right,” NEVER “This is some interesting information on a famous artist/building/city/text.” Because of the nature of an analytical research paper, it is perfectly acceptable to use “I” and write in the first person. Of course, in general, statements should be made with confidence (ex. “Giotto was the greatest master of the Renaissance because x, y, and z,” not “I think Giotto was…”), but don’t make your writing uncomfortable and awkward just to avoid the word, “I.”
Research Sources While the internet is a good place to start, don’t rely solely on websites to get your information. Books, scholarly journals, and newspaper/magazine articles are the right kinds of sources. Wikipedia is NEVER an acceptable source. If you don’t know where to begin, use the website for the LRC to access online databases. A good research paper relies on at least three quality sources (the kinds of sources listed above are considered quality). Students are encouraged to discuss their topics with me (instructor) before beginning writing. I can help hone your ideas into a workable thesis or provide guidance in writing.
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