American Identity
English 202 Research Paper Assignment
For your research paper, pick two authors from the syllabus. These may be
authors from either the same period or different periods. Compare the major
ideas put forth in these works, and discuss how these ideas contribute to the
American identity. Remember the author and work(s) you write on must come
from the syllabus. If you choose an author and/or work(s) not listed on the
syllabus, then you will receive a zero on the assignment.
Essay Requirements
This paper needs to be at minimum five pages long (not including the works
cited page), longer is better. At the earliest, then, the content section of the paper
needs to end on the bottom of page five.
You must use two primary sources. When quoting, paraphrasing, or
summarizing a primary source, make sure you use the works that are printed in
the Concise Anthology of American Literature, so that I can verify the information.
In addition to two primary sources, you must use at least four secondary sources,
more is better. These secondary sources must be criticism on the primary sources.
Scholarly books and journal articles from the librarys electronic databases, such
as Ebsco, JStor, or Gale Group are acceptable. However, webpages, encyclopedia,
Cyclopedia, Masterplots, literary reviews, and the biography/background
section on authors and their works from your class text, Concise Anthology of
American Literature, will not count as a secondary source. While you can use class
notes, they will not count as a secondary source, either.
Essays that are short of the five FULL page can earn only as high as a 60/D.
Likewise, essays that do not have the minimum required secondary sources can
only earn as high as a 60/D. Once I have considered content and mechanics,
essays that do not meet the minimum requirements, will more than likely earn an
You must cite all sources (including class notes) internally and in an MLA-style
works cited page. Failure to use a source and not cite it internally and/or in a
works cited page is plagiarism and will result in a zero on the essay.
Finally, this paper must be typed and MLA formatted. You must also include a
descriptive title (beyond Research Essay). Remember that a good title tells the
subject of the essay and gives the reader some idea of the papers content.
Other Required Materials
Along with your paper, you must submit copies of ALL your secondary sources.
Failure to do so will result in a zero on the essay—no exceptions. Without copies
of your sources, I cannot verify your research and therefore, cannot fairly
evaluate the quality of your research. Copies will not be accepted after the paper
has been turned in. Also, ALL borrowed material (from the secondary sources)
must be highlighted in the original source, so that I can verify all quotes,
summaries, and paraphrases. Failure to highlight borrowed material will result
in a 10-point deduction per internal citation.
In addition to bringing a hard copy of the research essay and all sources, you
must upload the research essay to Vericite, which is available through Canvas.
Failure to upload the final publish will result in a zero on the essay.
Essay Reminders (Very Important to Earn a Good Grade)
? Form a strong thesis. Dont fall into these pitfalls:
• Dont try and argue common knowledge: Bradstreet and Dickinson
are two women writers who made important contributions to the
American identity. We already know this. Its a fact. You cant argue
a fact.
• Also, dont give me a sickly thesis that reads something like this:
Bradstreets and Dickinsons poems show women striving for
freedom. This is too general, and you will find that your essay will
quickly go awry if you dont have a focused thesis.
? You want solid research to support yourself. Sometimes, students are
unsure of what an instructor means by solid or thorough research. For a
shorter research essay, like yours, use this rule of thumb: for every
primary source, you should have at least two secondary sources. (e.g. If
your two primary sources are Howellss “Editha” and Jamess Daisy
Miller, then you should have at least two secondary sources that comment
on “Editha” and another two that comment on Daisy Miller. Of course,
more than four secondary sources is preferred, so you might look for more
sources that comment on the works or sources that comment on that time
period in America, etc.)
? One quote, paraphrase, or summary is not sufficient support—period. If
you are interviewing for a job, and you tell the interview committee that
you are the best candidate because you are a hard worker…you wont sell
yourself well. You need more than one reason that you are the one. After
all, competition is stiff. Likewise, there are many ways to look at the ideas
in these works and see a relation to the American identity. And since, Im
generally stubborn, it will be to your advantage, to give me plenty of
support for your ideas.
? Biographical information should not be included unless it directly relates
to the work and the American identity. Please dont tell me that Dickinson
was generally a recluse and resisted her Calvinist background unless you
can relate this information to her poems and the American identity. If you
cant relate it, then it doesnt belong in your essay.
? I am always willing to review a students rough publish. Please come see me
for help or feedback.
? If you no longer have the 101/102 grammar text, then I recommend either
purchasing (or borrowing from the library) the MLA Handbook for Writers
of Research Papers or using the OWL website. (The link is available through
our Blackboard page.) I will deduct points for essays that are not properly
formatted in MLA style (this includes internal citations and the works
cited page, too). Formatting errors are unacceptable in a 200-level English
class and, in some cases, have resulted in D and F papers, even when the
content is acceptable. Formatting is serious not just in college, but in the
work place as well.
Due Date
See the course schedule.
*Remember that if you do not submit the research essay, you will automatically
fail the class. (See the syllabus.)
Pairing Writers and Their Works
You are not limited to this list, but this is a starting point, especially if youre a bit
unsure about which authors and their works will pair well. Remember, the
authors and their works must come from the syllabus.
? Whartons “The Other Two” and Jamess “Daisy Miller”
? Hawthornes “Young Goodman Brown” and Melvilles “Bartleby”
? Fitzgeralds “Winter Dreams” and Howellss “Editha”
? Howellss “Editha” and Jamess Daisy Miller
? Hemingways “In Another Country” and Howellss “Editha”
? Douglasss Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass (excerpt read for class),
and Stowes “The Mothers Struggle”
? Thoreaus “Civil Disobedience” and Hawthornes “Young Goodman
? Thoreaus “Civil Disobedience” and Stowes “The Mothers Struggle”
? Hawthornes “Young Goodman Brown” and OBriens “On the Rainy
? Bradstreets poems (from the syllabus) and Dickinsons poems (from the
? Franklins Autobiography and Thoreaus “Civil Disobedience”
? Franklins Autobiography and Edwardss “Sinners in the Hands of an
Angry God”
? Edwardss “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Thoreaus “Civil
? OBriens “On the Rainy River” and Tans “Half and Half”
? Steinbecks The Grapes of Wrath (excerpt read for class) and Cathers O
Pioneers (excerpt read for class)
Example of the Comparison & Contrast Structure
Smiths The General History of Virginia and Bradfords Of Plymouth
Either format is fine, though you will probably have a more coherent argument
with the point-by-point structure. What follows is a review of the different ways
to structure a comparison & contrast essay. Overall, I am most concerned that
you have a solid argument essay that conforms to the guidelines, is well
researched, clearly written, and grammatically correct.
-Introductory Paragraph(s)
-Idealism (in a few paragraphs discuss how both Bradford and Smith portray the
idealistic nature of their journey…their journey is both physical and imagined…
show how this is crucial to understanding the American identity)
-Opportunity/Adventure (in a few paragraphs discuss the reasons underlying
Bradfords and Smiths journey…show how this is crucial to understanding the
American identity as an individual journey)
-Disillusionment and Hope (in a few paragraphs discuss the reality of
disillusionment in both cases, and the hope that is portrayed, particularly in
Smiths…show how this is crucial to understanding the American identity as a
journey often marked by disillusionment but continually sustained with hope)
Block Format
-Introductory Paragraph(s)
-Bradfords Of Plymouth Plantation (a few paragraphs explaining the ideas
represented in the work and how those ideas are crucial to the American
-Disillusionment and Hope
-Smiths The General History of Virginia (a few paragraphs explaining the ideas
represented in the work and how those ideas are crucial to the American
-Disillusionment and Hope
-Tie together paragraph (need a paragraph to tie Bradford and Smith together
and reiterate how those ideas are crucial to the American identity.

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