WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE Guidelines and Pointers

General Guidelines: Your papers should be typed (double-spaced with appropriate margins). Include pertinent information (your name, the course, and date) in the top left-hand corner of the first page. Insert a header so your name and page number appear on all subsequent pages. Students always ask (as well they should!) about length requirements for papers. As noted in the syllabus, these analytical/interpretive papers should be around l000-1200 words in length (4-5 pages). Bear in mind, however, that I am more interested in WHAT you write and how well you express yourself than in a precise word count. I expect you to develop your ideas sufficiently and cover the topic you choose adequately. Criteria for Evaluation: Surprisingly enough, we as readers tend to agree about what makes for good writing. We generally value and expect clarity, strong content and analysis, coherence and logical organization, appropriate integration of sources, correct and effective use of language (good grammar and style), and mechanical precision (spelling, punctuation and the like). These are the chief elements I will consider as I evaluate your written work. Some Pointers:

1. Choose a topic that responds to your interests and passions. We write best about things we care about.

2. Once you have chosen a topic, do a bit of brainstorming. It may be helpful to comb through the pieces of literature you are writing about with your topic in mind, jotting down ideas, examples or specific quotes.

3. Formulate a clear thesis or controlling idea for your paper. Often your thesis will appear in the first paragraph. In any case, we certainly should be able to discern quickly what your topic is and what angle you’ll be taking.

4. Make sure that paragraphs follow one another logically and that you construct transitions between your major points.

5. Support your assertions with appropriate examples from the text. It is not enough simply to make a claim without bringing in proof. Think of yourself as your reader’s guide!

6. Set aside enough time to revise and proofread. The good writer learns to identify rough points in his or her own prose and rework the language until it has just the right feel and ring to it. As you reread your work, make sure every sentence is grammatically correct. Consult a handbook if you are uncertain about particular grammatical rules. It is also often helpful to have a trusted friend/editor read over and make comments on your paper before you turn it in. If you finish a draft early enough (which should be your aim!), you could make an appointment with a tutor in the Writing Center (in the library) who will read through your paper and provide you with feedback.

7. Properly cite and attribute sources, consulting your MLA Handbook if you have questions or need models.

8. Work at developing your own personal voice and writing style. 9. If you get stuck at any point, pause for a moment and relax. Grab a cup of

coffee. Go for a walk. Call a friend to talk about the issue (or something else, just to get your mind off the issue). Read through what you have written so far, editing and thinking of what possibilities you created for yourself.

10. Pay particular attention to the ways you begin and end your papers. Beginnings should capture our attention. Endings should provide some kind of closure.

11. Finally, at some point before you turn your paper in, GIVE IT A TITLE! Can we imagine a book without a title, or a person without a name? The title is the first thing we see. It sets the mood, generates interest, and established expectations.

12. Just remember: If YOU do not demonstrate interest in what you write, how can you expect your reader to be interested?!

13. Very best wishes as you continue your development as a writer.

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