English 418: Shakespeare
Helpful hints for Writing a Research Paper (3000 words minimum,
six documented secondary sources):
Other Mechanical Issues:
- As this is a senior-level English majors course, I will
be operating under the assumption that students recognize the
difference between a personal response paper and a critical
literary analysis and know what should be expected in such a
paper. Students should be fully aware of what type of language
is appropriate and inappropriate for such a discussion.
- But just to be clear:
- Refrain from using "I" and "We" or "You."
- Do not refer to or address "the reader."
- Avoid speculation, including such phrases as
"Shakespeare is trying to ..." or "If Hamlet were smarter,
he would have ..."
- Other general considerations:
- Avoid making comparisons to
present day society.
- Avoid plot summary. Use quotes from only those
sections of the text immediately relevant to your
- Use past tense to discuss historical or biographical
events, but present tense when discussing literature.
- When citing verse, use slashes to show line breaks and
cite by line (or act.scene.line for plays).
- Avoid plagiarism !! See Policy
- Remember that research in an English should begin with
the MLA Bibliography database. Only sources
published in legitimate academic contexts should be used.
- In other words, don't Google your topics.
- Do not use a cover page!
- Use only one edition of your primary source. If you
wish to refer to an editor's introduction to another edition,
cite by the editor's name.
- Be sure to use quotation marks for titles of shorter
works, such as poems and short stories, and italics for
titles of longer works, such as plays, epic poems and
- Do not rely too heavily on secondary sources. The
number of citations to your primary source should be roughly
equivalent to the total number of references to all of
your secondary sources combined.
- Do not use secondary source material to summarize plot or
quote from the primary source.
- Make sure it is clear whose ideas you are
presenting. If Critic A is quoting Critic B, and you use the
quote, your citation should say (qtd. in Critic A #). The #,
of course, refers to the page number in Critic A's text.
- Avoid unnecessary changes to quotes. Instead of
saying, "Wollstonecraft describes, '[She] felt hopeless'
(24)," say, "Wollstonecraft describes that she 'felt hopeless'
- Avoid using direct quotes in either your introduction or
conclusion. Discussion in these two paragraphs should be
- Do not use quotes as the subjects of sentences: The
quote "---------" (29) shows that. . . or
"-----------" (87) means that . . .
- Don't use "in which" when you mean "that."
- Avoid using "how" (Shakespeare talks about how ..."): Say
"Shakespeare says that ..."
- Don't confuse "where" and "when". One is used to refer to
place and one refers to time, but I shouldn't need to tell you
- Use present tense to discuss literature!
Research Paper Topics:
(Be sure your submitted topic includes a specific text or texts).
As you think about your topic, a logical starting point would
be the "Things to Consider" lists presented for each of the
General topics could also include
- the analysis of a character from one of the plays we've
- particularly interesting would be the investigation of
the contributions of a lesser character
- a comparison of two different characters within a play
- a comparison of characters of similar status in different
- a critical evaluation of a specific production, evaluating
directorial choices (such as changing the historical or
geographical setting) or individual character performances
(note: please refrain from making such a discussion into a
simple review of the production).
- the role of gender and/or class in a particular play
Here is a very partial list of some more specific potential
topics to give you an idea:
- Comparison of scapegoats: Shylock and Malvolio
- Comparison of Antonios in The Merchant of
Venice and Twelfth Night
- The New Comic Plot and Differences between Midsummer
Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet
- Portrayal of Madness (Pick no more than two):
- Lady Macbeth
- King Lear
- Edgar/Poor Tom
- Magic and Witchcraft (Perhaps a comparison of two specific
characters between plays could be acceptable):
- Richard III
- Midsummer Night's Dream
- The Tempest