Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sample Research Paper (Seminar Paper Example)

This sample is intended to provide a sample of a critical paper using research for students planning or working on seminar papers. It is taken from a PDF copy which is available upon request to AJ484 students only. It is slightly modified from a paper done in a third-year U.S. class. In this online version, formatting is only partly preserved, but content is accurately reproduced. The original version was double-spaced with indented paragraphs. Page breaks are not preserved, but each new page is indicated by "sample paper" plus a page number.

Sample Paper 1

Sara X [last name and identifying marks have been removed from this paper.]
LIT 377: American Gilded Age Fiction
November 3, 2009
Dr. Siegel

Fact and Propaganda in Ten Nights in a Bar-Room

In an era of romanticism and melodrama, T.S. Arthur produced a novel which became a guide to the ills and solution to alcoholism. Spawning the genre of the temperance novel, Ten Nights in a Bar-Room encapsulates many of the negative effects of alcohol while offering the simple solution. However, the temperance movement was flooded by propaganda and moral enlightenment. While Arthur excelled in moral education, his story also appealed to popular culture with scenes of drama and gritty realism. Yet, how real was his depiction of intemperance? Arthur was a religious man who was never reportedly an alcoholic, just a spectator. While he gained inspiration from the Washingtonians who prided themselves in the truth of their experiences, his stories were fiction. The divide between his literary depiction and historical experience is a blurry question of the legitimacy or accuracy of the temperance movement. Through the values of the Washingtonians and the recorded facts, the truth of Arthur‟s story may be separated from the exaggerated propaganda. (“T.S. Arthur”).

The author,Timothy Shay Arthur was an influential supporter of the temperance movement. Arthur wrote within the popular arena and yet tailored his stories with moral lessons for social and religious improvement. His tendency to depict the darker side of humanity as object lessons depressed some of the popular interest in his novels.
T.S. Arthur was born in 1809 and died in 1885, over which time he traveled from New York, to Baltimore, to Kentucky, to Philadelphia. He began his life far from the literary field. As a sickly child, he was educated by his mother from the Bible. When he was able to

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attend school at age 9 in Baltimore, he struggled to keep up with the lessons of grammar and arithmetic (“T.S. Arthur”). Because of his poor standing in school and his father‟s death, Arthur was apprenticed to a tailor. He later worked in a bank, reading and educating himself during free hours. In the early 1830s, he found work with a publication and continued in this calling for the rest of his life (“T.S. Arthur”). .
All of these experiences became material for books he would later publish. He wrote, edited and published about ten different newspapers and magazines over his lifespan and published dozens of books, such as Insubordination: A Story of Baltimore, Trails of a Needlewoman, Debtor and Creditor: A Tale of the Times, Six Nights with the Washingtonians, The Good Time Coming, The Angel and the Demon: A Tale of Modern Spiritualism, What Can Women Do?, Strong Drink: The Curse and Cure. Each phase of his life inspired several fictitious representations of his perspective. For example, marriage inspired a closer connection to home writings and publications (like the magazines Arthur’s Home Magazine and the Children’s Hour). He also founded the Franklin Home for Inebriates in Philadelphia (“T.S. Arthur”).

Arthur is best known today for his work Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There, a novel considered the dry Bible of the temperance movement. Arthur first encountered the Washingtonians while reporting for The Baltimore Merchant. This particular branch of the temperance movement had the most direct impact on his writing. The Washingtonians or “Washington Temperance Society had been formed by six drinking buddies in need of a positive change, and their small group had burgeoned into a public association of reformed drunkards who stayed sober by recruiting others and telling their own stories at the society's meetings” (“T.S. Arthur”). This branch had a particular approach to the crusade for temperance: truth spoken by the ordinary man. Many previous temperance organizations were known in the day for a lack of authenticity (Lender and Martin 34). T.S.

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Arthur‟s connection with this particular branch may push his fiction closer to fact than the propaganda fiction.

An explanation of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room is necessary before determining how accurate it was to the movement and social climate that forged it. An unnamed traveler narrates the passage of the peaceful town of Cedarville from the opening of the town‟s saloon, the Sickle and Sheaf, to the town‟s destruction and redemption ten years later.
The traveler has occasion to stay in Cedarville ten nights randomly spread over ten years, beginning in the year the saloon is opened. Simon Slade, a formerly successful miller, opens a family-run tavern complete with a stage, restaurant, bar and rooms to rent. The tavern begins in the cleanest model of a pleasant community center with a cheerful host. As Slade so unknowingly foretells, “You can generally tell something about the condition of a town by looking at its tavern” (Arthur 7). Even within the first night‟s stay, the narrator can detect the symptoms of moral stress. The narrator is clearly biased toward temperance as he warns Slade that “there may be something beyond the money to take into account” (Arthur 7) and shares with the audience that “elements had been called into activity, which must produce changes adverse to the pleasant states of mind…” (Arthur 18-19).

The narrator introduces characters whose lives will be directly affected because of the new tavern. Joe Morgan, the first victim of intemperance, has already lost his job, yet still relies on alcohol when his wife and daughter starve at home. A classic sentimental scene takes place on this night as Morgan‟s young daughter, Mary, walks through the dark of night to fetch her father back home. Mary‟s plea “Come, father! Won‟t you come home?” (Arthur 11) was later reused in theatrical dramas of Arthur‟s temperance tale.

Based on brief first impressions, the narrator judges the moral character and guesses at the future of more than one guest at the bar. For instance, the narrator presumes to have a better understanding of Frank Slade, the tavern owner‟s son, than Simon Slade does. Frank

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serves as the bar tender at a young age which to the narrator “the sight was painful, for I saw that this youthful tippler was on dangerous ground” (Arthur 5). Before the end of the evening, the narrator‟s suspicions are confirmed as he sees Frank taste a sip of liquor. He meets Willy Hammond who is son of the respectable Judge Hammond, the richest man in town. He is instantly able to judge Willy‟s noble character—aided by the opinion of fellow guests. The narrator quickly notices the corrupting influence of Harvey Green, the town‟s gambler, and Judge Lyman, a liquor supporter. The narrator argues with Simon Slade as to the dangerous moral repercussions of a bar-room, but is not listened to. By the end of the night, a knife fight between Green and a guest shows a gruesome symptom of the influence of alcohol.

The second night occurs a year later. While the narrator allows himself to be wrong on the surface, since the town and tavern are still in pristine order, he confirms the seeds of moral demise. Simon Slade is troubled and not as pleasant as he was formerly. He is drinking more than he should and is damaging his relationship with his wife because of it. The bar has become a vulgar, profane hangout for rambunctious underage boys who are more interested in defying their fathers than interacting in a respectable community lounge, as the tavern previously seemed. Frank Slade shows dramatic signs of corruption, speaking profanely and apparently drinking more openly.

On the second night, one of the most infamous scenes of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room occurs. Joe Morgan gets into an argument with Simon Slade. In his anger, Slade throws a glass at Morgan, who ducks. The stray glass then soars across the room to strike little Mary Morgan who had come to fetch her father. She is at first mistaken to be dead, but is traumatically injured.

The third and fourth night continue the melodramatic saga between Mary and Joe Morgan. Little Mary catches a fever due to her injury. She forces her father to pledge not to

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visit the saloon until she gets well. He promises, failing to realize that she will never get well. Joe suffers from severe withdraw symptoms which would persuade some audiences to never try alcohol. The newly developed coldness of Simon Slade is revealed in his discussions with his wife and Harvey Green. Without any sympathy, Slade decides to never allow Morgan to return, not for Morgan‟s well being, but for his own business success. He worries about killing Mary, but blames her for “creeping in here every night” (Arthur 31).

On the fourth night, Joe tries to sneak away to the saloon, but is faced with his evidently dying daughter. She had predicted it the night before, but now her death looks inevitable. By her persuasion, he swears he will never drink again. In the description, the sentimental touch is quite evident. As Mrs. Slade recounts to the guests, “Her last thought in dying was of her miserable father….Her father promised Mary, just at the last moment—solemnly promised her—that, henceforth, he would never taste liquor. That was all her trouble. That was the thorn in her dying pillow” (Arthur 53). Ordinarily, anecdotes are not relayed with such articulate, emotional fervor. Following in the tradition of the Washingtonian's inspirational confessions, her eloquence is understandable in the context of Arthur's cultural influence. Mrs. Slade raises money for the Morgans and encourages the guests to prevent Joe from going back on his word. She also appeals to their sensibility arousing their moral disgust to stay away from the saloon themselves. Several listen in a perfect example of the testimonial effect similar to the Washingtonian movement.

The plot of moral degradation speeds up dramatically from this point on. Five years later the fifth night occurs, increasing the corruption of Frank and Simon Slade and Willy Hammond. Frank steals and ruins Willy's prize horse. Simon falls to his own poison slowly becoming a drunk. Willy is notably involved in Green‟s gambling, and Judge Hammond grows poor due to Willy's debt and poor business practices. The sixth day reveals more of Willy and Simon's debt to Green due to gambling. Willy's prize horse now belongs to

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Green, as well. Willy's worrying mother paces outside of the saloon and predicts his death. The seventh day brings an investigation as Willy did not return home the previous night. When Willy is fetched from gambling, an argument arises between him and Green over money. In the following fight, Willy is stabbed and killed. His mother dies of heartbreak seeing that her last living child has died. An angry mob forms and attacks the Sickle and Sheaf, killing Harvey Green and injuring Judge Lyman and Simon Slade. Two years pass before the eighth night and the final twist of the plot. In short, the town is in disarray and the saloon has few respectable guests. Mrs. Slade is sick and kept away at an insane asylum. The Slades argue, but Simon is prevented from hitting his son. On the ninth night they fight again, but this time Frank strikes and kills his father with a bottle of brandy. The tenth night brings reform as the citizens of the town gather around the saloon led by the reformed Joe Morgan and Mr. Hargrove. After much discussion, they outlaw liquor in the town of Cedarville.

This novel was known as the dry Bible, for its concise outlining of the potentials for corruption and destruction from alcohol, but also for the potential of redemption. The novel is thick with the rhetoric and propaganda of the temperance movement. Such opinionated declarations as “what a curse is this drink” (Arthur 14) or “this tavern-keeping is a curse to any place” (Arthur 13) very clearly echo temperance rhetoric. A factual basis is presented but deciphering the exact truth as it reflects the culture of the temperance era, is a challenge. The temperance novel was known for its romantic roots and sentimental details for effective persuasion. However, the roots of temperance fiction are based in truth, though exaggerated slightly.

Social trends of that era and the time preceding the temperance movement show an increase in the occurrence of harmful drinking habits. “Drink permeated the life of American males, and rates of consumption increased dramatically between the American Revolution

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and 1830” (Rorabaugh). While the simple increase of drinking could be accounted to an increase in population, there was a marked change in the manner of drinking. “Rather than spread their drinking throughout the day, in small amounts drunk regularly, which produced some tolerance, men began to concentrate their drinking; more and more they drank in binges to the point of intoxication” (Lender and Martin 52-53). The exact causes for this evolution in drinking habits were the topic of controversial debates, sometimes attributed to the economic boom and sometimes blamed on the increase in immigrants. Whatever the cause, the pattern produced an epidemic of alcohol-related crime. Violence, murder and crimes related to alcohol increased so much that a 1829 temperance society in South Carolina claimed that a case couldn't be referenced which did not arise from alcohol (Nadelhaft).

This rampant crime and violence is obviously represented and overpowering the plot of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room. Alcohol brings Simon Slade from a congenial businessman to a belligerent brawler who antagonizes the mob. Drinking and just being in a bar has multiple means of corruption. Bars often carried other indecent practices such as gambling or prostitution as Arthur describes “that in one of the upper rooms gambling went on nightly, and that some of the most promising young men in town had been drawn, through the bar attraction, into this vortex of ruin” (69). While “Modern social scientists are likely to consider alcohol as only a contributing factor, and sometimes only as an excuse, to justify what might be considered inappropriate behaviour” (Nadelhaft), Gilded Age psychology and medicine could not fully comprehend the connection between alcohol and irrationality or insanity.

Having few logical explanations for why an individual would willingly do something so harmful and corrupt, blaming the evil toxin of liquor served a fair scapegoat. It was their belief that eradicating alcohol would solve all social and economic ills since it was commonly seen in newspapers that an “alcoholic husband's drinking, historians have noted,

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impoverished families, causing hunger (sometimes starvation), exposure to the elements (sometimes freezing to death for lack of fuel), and a general suffering of helpless, dependent wives and children” (Nadelhaft). The effect of poverty was demonstrated in the character of Joe Morgan as his wife and children starve, yet he continues to visit the saloon.

The honored code of the Washingtonians also assures for a more truthful basis to Arthur‟s novel. In the introduction to his novel Six Nights with the Washingtonians, Arthur claims “to be writing without „artificial effect, to simply let truth and nature speak forth in their legitimate power and pathos” (Augst 316). While the temperance movement was known to carry some inauthentic publicity stunts—such as faked confessions at meetings, the lies of unredeemed drunkards, or paid professional lecturers—the Washingtonian society began with the policy of ordinary people telling their true story. While this principle may have faltered as the organization grew, Arthur first encountered the Washingtonians in their earliest stages while they retained their authenticity. The stories he would have heard would have been authentic tales of reclaimed drunks.

Many earlier temperance organizations wove class and religion strongly into the message of temperance so that the individual‟s story was not so highly cherished. In the eighteenth century, the temperance movement of Benjamin Franklin was more characteristic of “Protestant work ethic” (Loughran 326). Many did not believe in the possibility for a drunk‟s reformation. The Washingtonian temperance is characterized by “a moment shared freely among equals—men who manage, in this setting, to elude these distinctions that structure the literary world that is emerging all around them” (Loughran 325). Inspired by this fair truth, Arthur wanted to create a book with no “artificial effect” that would reflect the experience of these meetings as no journalistic report was able to do. Joe Morgan shows Arthur's loyalty to the contemporary temperance movement, as he is able to change and

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reform. Every Washingtonian chapter was small enough that members would be able to recognize the metaphorical Joe Morgan as he walked into the meetings looking to change.

Arthur uses Joe Morgan as a case study, as if his readers are overhearing a Washingtonian testimonial of how he was able to improve his life from avoiding the drink. Joe Morgan does not become a directly religious man, because redemption from alcohol was not about religion for this organization. The “Washingtonian romance of reform represented a secular confession, a de-sacralization of moral knowledge that would help make personal experience central to the civic rituals and social practices of modern liberalism” (Augst 298). Reform should happen because logic for the greater social and the personal good outweighs the temptation. This is accomplished in Joe Morgan, as he reforms for the sake of his child and wife without direct religious motivations.

The aid of fellowship with other recovering alcoholics is also represented in Arthur‟s novel, in the form of Mrs. Slade. Reflective of the mentality of the temperance movement “Arthur frequently assigns to women the duty of protecting their men from moral ruin” (“T.S. Arthur”). While women were still unable to vote, but more commonly “literature setting forth the proper standards of behaviour argued for the morality of the companionate marriage” (Nadelhaft) in which the wife can be more proactive to guide and protect her husband from harmful paths. Mrs. Slade demonstrates this concept by not rebelling entirely, but arguing for reason with her husband, as she does for all the guests, to reform in the scene after Mary Morgan‟s injury. She warns her husband that he “will break hearts as well as commandments, if you keep on for a few years as you have begun—and ruin souls as well as fortunes” (Arthur 43).

While Arthur tries to stick to the demonstration of personal experience through his fictitious characters, some propaganda does mix in with Arthur‟s novel. However, the prevalence of Christian moral values also made appearance in the Washingtonian creed, in

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spite of their attempts to secularize the process (Augst 304). For example, in Mrs. Slade‟s speech to her husband (43), she discusses souls which the prevalence of a religious community accepted as fact. Arthur allows his characters to use terminology such as souls, temptation and damnation because it reflects the vocabulary of the time. While Washingtonian temperance was trying to move away from religious affiliation,” religion remained a central component,” a component which the Massachusetts Temperance Society and other organizations returned to the foreground in years after Washingtonian popularity (Rorabaugh 134).

Arthur's novel carries a heavy proportion of sentimentality and melodrama which could be seen as exaggerations for the purpose of propaganda. However, the very nature of the tales documented by temperance novels has the sort of personal drama to translate well into romanticism. Especially in the orally transmitted form, “the drunkard's story lent itself to the sentimental and narrative formulas of domestic melodrama: physical demonstrations of interior states, stark oppositions between woe and happiness, the destruction and salvation of the family” (Augst 316). His audience carried the cultural influences of religion and romanticism, so it would have been foolish to ignore their popular draw in his novel. Ten Nights in a Bar-Room does carry some potential for propaganda and exaggeration because it is based on individual testimonies and pathetic appeals. However, data shows an increase in the seriousness of the threat of intemperance in that time. While the potential for lies and drama pervaded temperance literature, the Washingtonian influence suggests and attempts to promise a basis in the truth of the stories protected by fellowship mentality. The facts and the source of information for Arthur‟s novel appeal to the elements of truth within the fiction
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Works Cited

Arthur, Timothy Shay. Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There. Ed. C. Hugh
Holman. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1966.

Lender, Mark Edward and James Kirby Martin. Drinking in America: A History. New York: The Free Press, 1982.

Loughran, Trish. “The Romance of Classlessness.” The Republic in Print: Print Culture in the Age of U.S. Nation Building, 1770-1870. Oxford University Press. Advance Access. March 9, 2007. .

Nadelhaft, Jerome. “Alcohol and Wife Abuse In Antebellum Male Temperance Literature.” Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue Canadienne d'Etudes Americaines (CRevAS). 25 (1). 1995 Winter. 15-43. MLA International Bibliography. 2007. .

Rorabaugh, W. J. The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford
University Press 1979.

“T. S. Arthur.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Antebellum Writers in New York. Volume 250, (2). Ed. Ljungquist, Kent P. The Gale Group, 2001. 16-28. Literature Resource Center. 8 November 2007.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Research Sources (Revised Edition)

Free Online Information Sources (Revised Edition)
Compiled by Dr. Gerald Siegel, York College of PA, York, PA, U.S.A.
(Visiting Professor, FON University, Skopje, MK, Spring 2010)

Wikipedia (limited usefulness for research, but can be a handy personal first stop)

ERIC (includes not only articles, but papers from professional conferences) free books (public domain materials)

Online Books Page of the University of Pennsylvania (public domain mainly primary materials)

University of North Carolina Library of Southern Literature

Project Gutenberg (public domain mainly primary materials)

University of Adelaide Library “E-book” collection (public domain mainly primary materials)

Wikisource (public domain mainly primary materials)

University of Virginia Library e-text center (public domain mainly primary materials)
Most free access materials will be at the library’s “Digital Collections” page.

FrontPage: University of Florida Free Online Reference Sources

American Literary History (online Oxford UP journal with free subscription for developing country ISPs)

Purdue Writing Lab Resources (includes MLA and APA guidelines)

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant (offers help with writing skills; online free; charge for downloads)

Carnegie Mellon University Resources in Composition and Rhetoric

York College of Pennsylvania Schmidt Library (some limited resources available to guests; go to; click on academics; click on library; click on subject guides; click on English..
A direct link is ; the college main page is

A variety of useful American Literature resources is listed on the web pages of Prof. Donna M. Campbell of Washington State University. has links to specific groups of sources; is her home page. See the “about” tab for Prof. Campbell’s explanation about the use of these materials.

The Oxford Companion to American Literature (lists a variety of miscellaneous sources, although some are quite brief)

Central Michigan University Library English Language and Literature Resources (not all available to guest users)

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis Quick Reference Sources (a variety of links)

British Literature and Anglophile Resources (a listing from the Wade Edwards Learning Lab in Raleigh, NC; intended for high school level, so some links may be a bit elementary; other links were no longer working when checked)

Free E-Books (Contains a warning about opening pop-ups; Australian site with an extensive list of links)

Academy of American Poets site—poetry and criticism, audio clips, teaching materials

American Memory provides access to items from the collections of the U.S. Library of Congress, one of the world’s top research libraries

Internet Archives. Film, media, texts and more. Describes itself as “a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.”

History Matters. “History Matters serves as a gateway to web resources and offers
other useful materials for teaching U.S. history,” according to the site description.

American history materials and items from the works of author Studs Terkel. Presented by Chicago History Museum. Academy of American Poets. Texts, audio, video and more about and by U.S. poets.

One location for media items is NPR (National Public Radio) site. Useful source of American studies items, current events, and links to broadcasts.

The Atlantic home page is a source of information related to the magazine and its coverage..

U. S. newspapers provide a wealth of cultural information as well as news stories. Many have sites with free access or free registration. The Washington Post is one such source.

Documentary radio programs are available at another media information source,

Information of many types about different aspects of America and American culture.

PAL: Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide by Paul P. Reuben, who describes this site as “a research and reference tool” for “international readers” and “Americans who have no or limited access to university libraries and academic databases….” American literature links and information.

The Virtual Learning Resource Center has many useful links, including biographies and even a Cliffsnotes for 20th century poetry. The index is set up by author birthdates; to get information about William Carlos Williams, for example, you need to know that he was born between 1880 and 1890 (actually, 1883). You may need to install plug-ins to access all of the media at this site. is the general site; you’ll find literature sources at

Antigonish Review (a Canadian literary review):

Dr. Charles Phillips Links to English Courses and Resources. Dr. Phillips makes the following statement about his personal site: “I retired from teaching English at Southside Viriginia Community College in May 2007. However, I am leaving some of my course materials posted as they may be of help to students elsewhere.”

EasyBib: The Automatic Bibliography & Citation Maker. My U.S. students like this for documentation help.

Directory of Open Access Journals:

BNet (emphasizes items in mamagement):

Wikipedia’s list of free online journals

Open Access Journals in Education:

Google Scholar (beta version)—specialized search engine:

You’ll find addtitional materials from my classes at my Blogger web site

The following sites can be of special interest for teaching and for future teachers:

Linguistic Funland

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching). An exchange site.

MLA Handbook. (Free access for MLA members only)

Open Educational Resources Center for California (open access to texts). This seems good and gets an OK from the Yahoo safety check, but some of the links produce yahoo warnings, so be alert with this site.

Penguin/Signet—free teacher’s guides to selected works

Pearson Instructor and Student Pages—a number of publishers have such site, mainly for students and teachers using or ordering their texts, but sometimes with free materials too. This is Pearson’s higher education home page

And this is the Pearson instructor page.

Here’s the page for the Fulbright Scholar program.

Last updated 26 May 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Seminar Paper Guidelines (May 2010)

FON American Literature Seminar Paper Guidelines for Students in AJ484 and those of Other Professors
Special Version 26 May 2010
Gerald Siegel, Ph.D. (Visiting Professor, Spring 2010)

I have been asked by several students, both those in my classes and those whom I’ve never seen before, to serve as a reader for their “seminar papers” topics that relate to American Literature. I will certainly consider doing this for qualified students during my stay at FON as a visiting professor. There are some guidelines for this. These remarks pertain specifically to seminar papers and only partly to the critical essay project for the second half of the semester. See the separate instructions for that assignment if you’re one of the students in my classes doing that assignment instead.

The deadline for submission of seminar papers (electronic submissions only, please) is 27 May 2010. I am happy to confer with people about plans and rough drafts before that; since I am not on campus, either in Skopje or Struga, on a regular basis, these conferences are usually by e-mail. If you are unfamiliar with the notions of drafts and the process of writing, you may find the booklet Writing Process Overview useful. It is posted at my web site,

Do not assume that just because you e-mail or submit a paper to me that I will either accept or read it. The paper must follow these guidelines to be considered. If it does not, please revise it or rewrite it entirely before submitting it.

An obvious guideline. I leave and return to York College at the end of the semester, and I expect to be quite busy for various reasons during the month before I leave. So any requests, especially those by students from previous semesters and previously resident professors, must be made by the last day of classes in May, or I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to read your paper. It’s best to start work at least a month in advance, so that I can review your proposal and research question, look at your preliminary bibliography, and comment about rough drafts.

My expectations for an acceptable paper: a research-supported study of a literary topic in American Literature using a primary source (and primary and secondary analysis). The topic should be focused and based upon a clear research question. The discussion questions I provide in my classes can often be a starting point for research topics. In most cases, the primary sources plus 2 or three reputable secondary sources used correctly will suffice, although you may go beyond this. You can find a list of Research Sources that contains a number of free online reference sources on my web site at You’re demonstrating your ability to use research to support a critical analysis—and, of course, your ability to write in English.

It will normally be 5-10 pages long, but I’m more concerned about quality and original work than I am about specific length. You’ll find information about writing techniques and research practices at my web site at, where I’ve also posted an extensive list of free online research and reference sources, most of at least minimal quality and some quite good. I am also providing some instruction on writing literary papers and avoiding plagiarism during my American Literature classes and will distribute a small booklet on the subject at those sessions. This booklet, entitled Writing, Research, and Documentation: A Simplified Guide, is also available at my web site,

I expect papers to be printed out in 11 or 12 point type, double spaced, or submitted to me electronically (after I have agreed to read them) in the same format, as MSWord files. Please use security software on your computer so that you send me virus-free files.

Because these papers are being done in English and on American Literature topics, I expect you to follow American research ethics and practices, including complete, correct documentation for borrowed information (using MLA or APA format) and use of quotation marks to identify any words taken from any source. If the ideas or the words aren’t yours credit them. Be especially careful to follow these practices if you are not my student and have not had me explain these practices to you. Perhaps you have not had to follow them during your academic career so far. If you want me to read your paper, you do need to follow them now. Mainly, I’ll look for an honest attempt to follow those practices. They can be complicated, and small errors that don’t affect a paper’s meaning aren’t a significant concern for me. The most important documentation responsibility is giving credit where it’s due; clearly identify the words and ideas of others and you’ve done the most important part of documentation.

I take plagiarism and academic dishonesty very seriously. Please be sure any work you give me is original and uses correct documentation practices. “Writing, Research, and Documentation: A Simplified Guide” (mentioned above) explains research writing and documentation. If you don’t already have a copy or were unable to download it from the web site and need guidance in these skills, send me an e-mail at and I’ll be happy to send you a copy of the file. Don’t insult me and embarrass yourself by turning in a paper that you have purchased from a print shop, another student, or an internet source. Don’t waste my time and yours by turning in as original work and your own words blocks of material entirely or mainly cut and pasted from internet resources or term paper mills and printed out under your name. As Andrea Lunsford observes in The Everyday Writer, , “deliberate plagiarism . . . is particularly troubling because it represents dishonesty and deception: those who intentionally plagiarize present the hard thinking and hard work of someone else as their own, and they claim knowledge they really don’t have, thus deceiving their readers.” (206) I do check for this, I’m pretty good at spotting it, and it’s easy to find with some internet searching.

Apart from academic integrity issues, student research can be interesting to read; student critical writing can open up and support new insights that may differ from those in traditional scholarship. Student writers who do honest research work hard and learn from the experience. They deserve the approbation and thoughtful responses of their colleagues, and I hope that those of you choosing to do American Literature seminar papers take time to share what you’ve learned with others in your classes.

You are free to develop your own research topics, although I must approve both your general subject area and your restricted topic, which I must have in writing or email by 15 May. You need my approval before going on. You’ll find a list of useful free online research sources at my web page, . Be sure you don’t pick too big a topic, and don’t even think about using other people’s papers, whether bought, borrowed, or cut and pasted from websites and study guides. You could just develop a workable topic from some of my study guide questions. I’m also listing a few possibilities below. These are just preliminary ideas.

Develop a seminar paper topic from any of our guide questions. For students not in my classes: you will find these questions under the names of the authors or in the American :Literature category on
Discuss Bradstreet’s incorporation into her poetry of the imagery of her everyday life.
How does Franklin’s Autobiography demonstrate his importance as an international figure?
How does the America shown in Sarah Kemble Knight's The Journal of Madame Knight reveal the culture of her day?
What were the sources and applications of Washington Irving's use of myth and legend in 2 specific works?
How did Puritanism have specific impacts upon two or more specific Hawthorne short stories?
Compare Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount” with Thomas Morton’s account of these events.
Explain Poe’s critical theories an explained in any two works besides “The Philosophy of Composition.”
Explain Poe's views of the theory and practice of fiction as expressed in two works of his own critical writing?
What relationships between individual and society does Melville present in Benito Cereno?
How does Melville use history in Billy Budd?
In what ways did Walden or Civil Disobedience function as social criticism?
How did Whitman change and develop Leaves of Grass over its various editions?
Discuss the notion that Whitman’s poetry is not devoid of any structure or shape, supporting your answer by specific references to two or more poems of at least 20 lines each.
An overview of Some Contemporary (19th century) Responses to The Awakening
What varying interpretations exist for the character of Mrs. Mallard in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”?
Is Frost’s work that of a cheerful New England poet who creates pleasant regional images, one who creates a troubling, frightening world bordered by anxiety, anguish, doubts, and darkness, or both? (Discuss at least two poems.)
Discuss the attitudes toward religion expressed in Stevens’ “Sunday Morning”
Discuss Hughes’ use of rhyme, rhythm, meter, and musical elements in at least three poems.
Discuss conflict in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” “That Evening Sun” or “The Bear.”
Discuss Faulkner’s use of innovative and specialized narrative methods in “Barn Burning.”
Characteristics and origins of Imagism
Faulkner's Use of Yoknapatawpha in two Stories
To what extent do the concepts of honor and tradition influence the action in “A Rose for Emily”?
Compare and contrast Faulkner’s characterizations (especially how he builds sympathy for the characters) of Emily in “A Rose for Emily” and Abner Snopes in “Barn Burning.”
Discuss the attitudes toward honor and patriotism implicit within “Soldier’s Home.”
Examine how a specific work uses, changes, and fictionalizes history of some sort.
Examine how an extended poetic work demonstrates the unique characteristics of the poet.
Develop comparisons and contrasts between two works of fiction that deal with similar themes.

Some vary narrowed topic drawn from one of these subject areas might also work.
Relate multiple works by an author to specific biographical backgrounds. (Many possible topics)
Feminism in American Literature (various aspects)
Literary Responses to War
The Harlem Renaissance (an aspect not covered in class)
A study of one of the following as regional or local color fiction:
• Jewett, “The Revolt of Mother”;
• Chesnutt, “The Sheriff’s Children”;
• Paul Dunbar, “The Lynching of Jube Benson;
• Alice Dunbar-Nelson, “The Goodness of St. Rocque”;
• Zona Gale, “Nobody Rich, Nobody Poor,”
• Bret Harte, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,”
A study of one of the following as naturalist fiction:
• Sinclair, The Jungle;
• London, The Call of the Wild;
• Crane: Maggie, A Girl of the Streets;
• Dreiser, Sister Carrie;
• Norris, McTeague;
• Garland, “Under the Lion’s Paw”

How can I find and use minimal research in my paper?

You may decide to do a paper which reflects mainly your own critical analysis of material. Still, research is part of the seminar paper, so choosing this approach means that you’ll need to find some relevant way to demonstrate your ability to use research as part of the paper. Remember that even two or three references are enough to show that you know how to use and credit sources. Writing, Research, and Documentation: A Simplified Guide, available at my web site,, can show you how to document and use secondary sources. One useful approach: formulate some questions that you haven’t been able to answer as you wrote the paper, but which would add depth or support.

For example, while general biographical facts may not be particularly relevant, it’s often useful to know if specific events the writer experienced or knew about add information that clarifies or extends what you’ve written. Knowing that Twain grew up by the Mississippi and was a riverboat pilot there can help explain why he uses that setting, information useful to know if you decided to write about the role of the river in Huckleberry Finn.

A second way to use research is to test your judgment in your own critical analysis. Do any sites, even general ones, contain information that supports or disagrees with what you said? Support can add strength to your argument; disagreement may mean simply that you acknowledge a counter-argument and go ahead with your own interpretation. The following four sites are easy to use, and you’ll find others on my web site. For URLs and other contact details, see the “Research Sources (revised edition)” posting at my web site,

Free Online Reference Sources. This is a list of reference lists. I liked the Internet Public Library’s list of resources by subject.

The Oxford Companion to American Literature
lists a variety of sources, although some are quite brief. Just enter your search terms—such as “Hemingway + Soldier’s Home”—in the “Search” box, and you’ll find several possible articles.

PAL: Perspectives in American Literature: A Research and Reference Guide
by Paul P. Reuben, includes many useful links and even brief student written biographies including the correct documentation. It’s important not to copy from this site without giving credit and using quotation marks for borrowed words, but the site can lead to easily accessible useful information.

Virtual Learning Resource Center
has many useful links, including biographies and even a Cliffsnotes for 20th century poetry. The index is set up by author birthdates; to get information about William Carlos Williams, for example, you need to know that he was born between 1880 and 1890 (actually, 1883). You may need to install plug-ins to access all of the media at this site. The general site is http:://; you’ll find literature sources at http:://

Last updated 26 May 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Writing, Research, and Documentation

Writing, Research, and Documentation: A Simplified Guide

©2010 Gerald Siegel, Ph.D.
Professor of English, York College of Pennsylvania
Visiting Professor, FON University, Skopje, Macedonia

This guide was developed to provide a quick reference to American and Western European academic research practices for students, especially those currently studying American Literature, at FON University. It is not intended to be either a complete or exhaustive treatment of the topic of research writing, and it reflects only the opinions of the author, not necessarily those of FON University or York College of Pennsylvania.

Before you do research

Here are a few “dos and don’ts” to guide you as you confront tasks in literary analysis, whether they are brief course projects or extended seminar or research papers.

DO READ AND DECIDE: first decide whether research is even necessary. Research is done to get information you need, but don’t have on your own and can’t get through careful reading and analysis of a text alone. Research is one way of learning what you don’t already know, but you may be able to produce a work of literary analysis or criticism through what you have learned through your own reading and abilities.

If you’re working on a project for a class or a university requirement, read over the directions for the project carefully. Can it be answered from careful reading of primary texts or from what you already know and have learned? Does it require secondary research to get information you don’t already possess? Will secondary research (reading an article that explains how Faulkner’s fictional town of Jefferson resembles the real Oxford, Mississippi) be more efficient than primary research (taking a trip to Mississippi to compare the real town with the fictional descriptions)?

DO THINK: that first decision often means just thinking about the assignment or project and spending some time just preparing to write. If you’re unclear about a project, this is a good time to consult with your professor.

DO HAVE A RESEARCH GOAL: If you think you’ll need to use research, make sure your research, if you do it, has a clear and limited purpose. Be sure you’re answering a restricted and focused research question, one that’s worth answering. When you look for specific information that is relevant, you’re more efficient and can save time. You can just ignore the irrelevant: if you’re doing research on Faulkner’s Mississippi locations, information about the business success of one of his childhood acquaintances isn’t anything you need, even if a resource happens to mention it.

DON’T JUST SURF: do not, above all, just pick a word or two in the assignment and start surfing the web to see what you find. For print materials, don’t just skim a book or study guide you happened to find in hopes that you can create a book report that will look like a research paper. If you develop a focus early, you’ll be able to work more efficiently later. Purposeful research beginning with reputable sources and specific goals can proceed more efficiently and produce a stronger piece of criticism.

If you need to do research

Keep your sense of purpose in mind. Decide whether you are doing research to familiarize yourself with a topic about which you know absolutely nothing, to get more information than you already have on a topic, or to test and possibly confirm or reject analysis you have done about a topic.

While much writing you do will proceed from your own knowledge, sometimes you will have to locate information elsewhere: to do research. Some of that research will be primary, or research that is original with you, such as analysis of an actual text or using class information that you have learned from a course, but have since assimilated and made your own. Other research may be as simple as a trip to the files or an interview.

But often you may need to rely on library and online resource. Even if you could conduct the necessary research yourself, using articles, books, and other secondary sources could save you from having to "reinvent the wheel." Perhaps the information you need has already been discovered by someone else and published in a book or article. Reading that book or article very often will be more efficient than repeating the same research yourself.

Finding Information Sources

Your first step will be to find the materials you need by using your library's research and bibliographic sources. If you don’t have access to a compete library at your own institution, you may be able to find resources through other area libraries, both university ones and those sponsored by various agencies, such as the U.S. embassy’s American Corner libraries. If you are very fortunate, you may be able to locate exactly what you need through a library's computer catalog. You may also have access to any of a number of computerized databases and online resources through which you can access extensive bibliographies, articles, and primary texts. While some of these may not be available in your location or may charge, many others are available free to various groups. A brief listing of online materials is available for FON students and faculty at under the heading “Research Sources.”

But very often your research will involve speaking with a reference librarian, if one is available, and using print information sources. Either in or out of libraries, you can also access information through a number of computerized information search services; using specific search tools can be more helpful than simply surfing the internet to see what’s out there about, say, William Faulkner. (Without narrowing your topic or using specialized search tools, you may find millions of possible hits including a number from term paper mills and other unethical or even illegal information hucksters.)

Going to visit Oxford, Mississippi, to compare what you find there with what’s described in a specific work of William Faulkner’s fiction as the town of Jefferson would be an example of primary research, as would reading several of his stories carefully and creating your own description of the town. Andrea Lunsford, in, The Everyday Writer, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2009), p. 169, describes this kind of research when she contrasts “primary sources [that] provide firsthand knowledge” with “secondary sources [that] report on or analyze the research of others.” Finding a book or study guide that provided a comparison of the real Oxford with the fictional Jefferson would be a good example of this kind of research.

Secondary sources can provide, among other things, explanatory or background information, differing views about your topic, and, perhaps most important, support for your own critical ideas and claims. Typically, even with carefully targeted research, you will initial find more possible works than you will actually use in writing your paper. Be wary of finding that every work you locate appears in your final version; this could be a sign that your paper may be an example of “cutting and pasting” rather than true research. It’s a good idea, nevertheless, to keep a list of full references to all of these possible works in your “working bibliography,” which is “a list of sources that you are considering using for your project” (Lunsford 182).

Taking Notes from Sources

Once you have located useful sources, either directly or with the aid of indices and reference guides like those described above, you are ready to gather the information you need. Most of the time, you'll take this information in the form of notes on your sources.

If the source you are using is extensive, consider doing a section at a time. Read the entire portion; then put the original away and write down your notes. You can always check those notes against the original for correctness and completeness before you go on to the next section. Some writers will try to use word processing and store notes as files. For those who prefer handwritten notes, note cards or small pieces of paper (either small sheets or half sheets) are handy for recording notes; the small size encourages putting only limited amounts of information on each card or slip. Unlike notes recorded sequentially on sheets of notebook paper, these small slips or cards can be arranged into various groupings as your document develops. If you feel you must take notes in sequence on notebook paper, try writing only on one side, and limit yourself to two, three, or four items per page. Record the source and page number on each note section. Then you can either use the notes in sequence or cut the sections apart and use them as note slips.

It's a good idea to note the source and page number on each note slip. If you quote from the source, be sure to place quotation marks around all quoted material in your notes. This practice will help you remember what is quoted and what is paraphrased when you begin writing a draft. As a rule, try to paraphrase or summarize rather than quote, so that your own style comes through. You will probably achieve a smoother style than if you had incorporated large amounts of undigested quotation into a piece of writing. Paraphrasing and summarizing help maintain a consistent style throughout a research-based work and are excellent ways to avoid inadvertent use another’s words as if they were your own.

Paraphrasing from Sources

Paraphrasing involves restating the ideas of a source in your own words and original syntax. Strictly speaking, a paraphrase should be about the same length as the original. In practice, however, paraphrases are often shorter than the source material, and in some cases, such as when you paraphrase technical or highly complex material, the paraphrase may actually be longer. If you do shorten the material as you paraphrase, be careful to avoid changing the meaning of the original. The paraphrase should mention all the main points of the original material in the same order. A special concern in paraphrasing is to guard against what Lunsford describes as “plagiarizing inadvertently” by instead being careful not to “simply substitute synonyms” and not to “imitate an author’s style” (195).

In most research situations, you will need to use appropriate documentation along with a paraphrase. Remember that footnotes and parenthetic or textual documentation are used to credit borrowed ideas. In addition, if you take the words and/or the syntax of the original, you'll need to include quotation marks around the borrowed words.

The following example illustrates proper and improper paraphrasing. The author of the samples is preparing informational notes to be sent to the supporters of a local public television station which will be presenting a series of programs about Southern writers. She begins by reading this passage from Michael Millgate's book William Faulkner (New York: Grove Press, 1961, p. 6).

Here is the original material, presented as a quotation:

"Just as it is impossible to identify Jefferson with Oxford completely, it is an exaggeration to say, as some critics have done, that the Sartorises of Faulkner's novels are the members of his own family. There can be no doubt, however, that Colonel Falkner is, in large degree, the original of Colonel John Sartoris of Sartoris, The Unvanquished, and, more briefly, of several other novels. Anyone who has read Sartoris and The Unvanquished will realize at once that many incidents in these books--the building of the railway, for example, the demotion of Sartoris from his first command, the shooting of Sartoris by Redmond--are based closely upon fact, or upon the legendary versions of original facts that Faulkner himself must have heard . . ." (Millgate 6).

Presented as a paraphrase and slightly shortened, the ideas might look like this:

Many of the people and events depicted in Faulkner's works do have apparent connections with actual figures and events associated with the author's own life. Faulkner's own great-grandfather Falkner, for example, was probably "the original of Colonel John Sartoris," a character who appears, with varying degrees of importance, in "several . . . novels." In addition, scenes from his works provide fictional versions of accounts with which Faulkner himself was personally familiar. Nevertheless, the parallels between actuality and Faulkner's fiction are not complete. The fictional town of Jefferson and the real Oxford, Mississippi, are not exactly alike, and, despite claims by some commentators, "the members of his [Faulkner's] own family" are not identical to the fictional Sartoris family (Millgate 6).

This sample uses the MLA documentation system, which identifies most works by the author’s last name plus the page or pages where the material appeared (shown in parentheses). Some internet sources have no actual page numbers and are identified by the author’s name alone. It’s even possible to document within the text by an extended citation; journalistic articles and books sometimes do this, and you will see examples of this practice throughout these instructions. For a discussion of other kinds of citations and of other documentation systems, see the Purdue OWL site or other similar resources..

For the most consistent style, paraphrases should avoid unnecessary quotation of the source; in that way, the promotional materials for the television series would reflect the author's style rather than that of Millgate. In the example above, a few word groups do come directly from the source, but are clearly identified as someone else's words by quotation marks. Indented block form can be used if the quotation is an extended one. Where one or more words is deleted from a quotation, the omission is shown by the three spaced periods (four if a sentence or more is cut). In the final sentence of the paraphrase, the author inserted an explanatory word of her own into a quoted phrase; the added word is identified by being placed in square brackets. Finally, the parenthetic note at the end of the paraphrase identifies the source of the information. Handled in this manner, the paraphrase could appropriately appear in the station program guide.

Even if an original is summarized, the same principles of documentation apply. The note at the end of the following passage--a passage entirely in the author's own words rather than those of the source--identifies the source of the information.

The apparent identification of Faulkner's life and fiction sometimes claimed exists, but only to a degree. Faulkner based his characters (such as the Sartoris family) and events in his fiction on people and facts he knew. Still, the parallels between reality and that fiction are not total (Millgate 6).

The following paraphrase is handled incorrectly. The excerpt doesn't show quotation through quotation marks or block form, but the Italicized phrases are Millgate’s words and not those of the student writer, so even though the entire passage is credited to the source, it is an example of plagiarism.

In the same way that one cannot identify Jefferson with Oxford in all ways, it would not be correct to claim, as some critics have said, that the Sartorises are members of Faulkner's own family. This would be an exaggeration. One cannot doubt, however, that Colonel Falkner is the original of Colonel John Sartoris (Millgate 6).

Finally, the following summary is done incorrectly, even though it is entirely paraphrased, because it fails to credit the source of the information. Again, the passage is thus plagiarized. In this case, the problem could be corrected by simply adding documentation (Millgate 6) after the borrowed ideas.

Many of the people and events depicted in Faulkner's works do have a connection with figures and events in real life.

Paraphrasing, then, is simply a way of presenting ideas from a source in your own words. To be effective, paraphrases should either avoid or clearly identify the words of the original. Changing a word or two or shuffling them around does not produce effective paraphrase.

As mentioned above, the parenthetic documentation system shown in this section is the system recommended by the Modern Language Association (or MLA). It has largely replaced more traditional systems of using footnotes and endnotes, although these forms can still be used and still occur in MLA papers when needed for explanation or comments. Other professional organizations (such as the American Psychological Association, or APA) recommend their own styles of documentation and issue manuals or guides explaining these systems. Each system will also follow certain prescribed formats for bibliographies or lists of "works cited" (MLA) or “references” (APA). If you are not sure of the style to use, check with your instructor or with the person for whom you are preparing the research-based report.

The works actually cited within a paper because their words or information were used are typically named at the end of an academic paper in an alphabetical list most often called “Works Cited” (MLA format) or “References” (APA). Works in this list would really have been cited in the paper, and any works cited in the paper should appear in this listing. (In some cases of journalistic writing, there may not be a separate list at the end because complete information was given through textual citations.) Although this article does not do so to save space, this list is normally on a separate page.

Some samples of typical MLA "Works Cited" entries include the following. Although this essay is single spaced to save paper for those making hard copies, most academic research (including the Works Cited) would usually be double spaced. Samples 9-13 are reprinted from Andrea Lunsford, The Everyday Writer, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2009), pp. 446-75. This list shows only a few samples of some common types of resources.

1. a book by one person
Doe, John A. Writing Clear Messages for International Audiences. New York: Useful Press, 2003. Print.

2. a book edited by one person
Moe, Mary. Essays in International Communication. London: Picadilly Books, 2008. Print.

3. a book by more than one person
Doe, John A., and Susan B. Roe. Persuasive Proposals. New York: Useful Press, 1998. Print.

4. an essay or chapter in a collection
Phelps, Phyllis. “Gender and Culture.” Writing Clear Messages for International Audiences. Ed. John Doe. New York: Useful Press, 2003. 245-76. Print.

5. an article in a journal which paginates each volume continuously
Doe, John A. "Clarity in Writing Styles." Journal of Professional Communication 12(2002): 16-23. Print.

6. an article in a journal which paginates each issue separately
Moe, Larry C. "Managing Conflict Today." Managerial Communicating Quarterly 34.2 (2008): 88-102. Print.

7. an article from a monthly or bimonthly magazine
Roe, Susan B. "Get Your Documentation Right." This Month's Business May 1993: 18-22. Print.

8. an article from a newspaper
Monroe, M. B. "Businesses Are Hiring Psychologists." Gotham City News 22 May 2009: 37B. Print. [Newspaper citations vary with the pagination and arrangement of the particular paper.]

9. a work from an online database
Goldman, William. “The Princess Bride Shooting Draft.” 1987. Internet Movie Script Database. Web. 12 June 2008.

10. an entry in an online reference work
“Tour de France.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006. Web. 21 May 2006.

11. a work from a web site
“Hand Off Public Broadcasting.” Media Matters for America. Media Matters for America. 24 May 2005. Web. 31 May 2005.

12. an entry in a wiki
“Federation Internationale de Football Association.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 June 2006. Web. 27 June 2006.

13. an article reprinted on a web site
Lee, Jennifer B. “I Think, Therefore IM.” New York Times. New York Times, 19 Sept. 2002. Web. 14 Nov. 2003.

14. a complete online website
The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2008. Web. 16 April 2010.

15. a scholarly article reprinted online
Mansfield, Richard. "In the World of Victorian Drama." Events in Drama 12.3 (2008): 483- 505. Web. 6 April. 2010.

16. a work from an online study guide
Washington, Durthy A. CliffsNotes on Invisible Man. Web. 15 Apr 2010.

17. interviews
Zimmerman, Zoe. Personal interview. 6 June 2007.

Abercrombie, Albert. Telephone interview. 8 May 2007.

The form of specific citations will vary with the type of information you have borrowed; many other forms exist, especially for electronic sources. Resources such as the Purdue University Online Writing Laboratory or the MLA home page can provide details on how to handle secondary materials. The exact extent of documentation, of course, will depend upon the context in which you are writing. Formal papers, including much academic writing, will require meticulous documentation; an in-house study for only you and your assistants may need none; a memo-length training bulletin for internal use may call for a simple list of sources. Finally, remember that even a report relying upon research should be well written. The same writing and editing techniques that you would use to make any other document smooth and effective apply here, too.

Sources actually used and cited in a paper, article, or research study will, in MLA format, also appear on a separate page at the end of the work in an alphabetical list called a Works Cited list. Again, such tools as the Purdue University OWL or MLA sites can help with specifics.

Plagiarism and academic integrity (honesty and dishonesty)

This section is intended to clarify the notions of academic integrity and the concept of plagiarism. Academic honesty, which includes giving credit through documentation and indicating quotation for information and words taken from other sources, clearly differentiating between your own words and those of someone else, and presenting as original research work only that which you have done yourself, is taken seriously in American academic practices. For that reason among others, it is essential to reflect these practices when preparing and submitting research and criticism in courses in American Literature and American studies.

Although sometimes plagiarism is the result of lack of knowledge and incompetence rather than deliberate cheating, it’s still plagiarism and unethical. But sometimes, often when a student is under pressure of time or grades, it is conscious and deliberate. Plagiarism and academic dishonesty are serious infractions. Be sure that any work you submit for a course or publication is original and uses correct documentation practices. If you’re under pressures that seem impossible to handle, you should think first about talking with the professor concerned. A penalty for late submission is a small price to pay for retaining one’s honor.

Above all, one should never insult one’s professor and embarrass himself or herself by turning in a paper that was purchased from a print shop, another student, or an internet source. Similarly, don’t turn in as original work and your own words blocks of material entirely or mainly cut and pasted from internet resources or term paper mills and printed out under your name. Professors usually check for this and get pretty good at spotting it. At best, professors won’t accept such papers, and more severe penalties can follow. As Lunsford observes, “deliberate plagiarism . . . is particularly troubling because it represents dishonesty and deception: those who intentionally plagiarize present the hard thinking and hard work of someone else as their own, and they claim knowledge they really don’t have, thus deceiving their readers” (206). The damage to a reputation can last for a lifetime.

Proper research practices and careful self-reviews and peer reviews can help avoid plagiarism problems. In some cases, awareness itself may be in part a cultural response to borrowed material. Lunsford provides a useful caution on this topic

Plagiarism as a Cultural Concept

Many cultures do not recognize Western notions of plagiarism, which rest on a belief that language and ideas can be owned by writers. Indeed, in many countries other than the United States, and even within some communities in the United States, using the words and ideas of others without attribution is considered a sign of deep respect as well as an indication of knowledge. In academic writing in the United States, however, you should credit all materials except those that are common knowledge, that are available in a wide variety of sources, or that are your own creations (photographs, drawings, and so on) or your own findings from field research (206).

Work in the field of American Literature or American Studies should adhere to those principles of acknowledging and crediting the words or ideas of others. Documentation and correct use of quotation marks or block form for extended quotations provides a way of giving this credit.

The Purdue OWL website also provides some specific insights into dealing with research and avoiding plagiarism:

Research-based writing in American institutions, both educational and corporate, is filled with rules that writers, particularly beginners, aren't aware of or don't know how to follow. Many of these rules have to do with research and proper citation. Gaining a familiarity of these rules, however, is critically important, as inadvertent mistakes can lead to charges of plagiarism, which is the uncredited [sic] use (both intentional and unintentional) of somebody else's words or ideas.

While some cultures may not insist so heavily on documenting sources of words, ideas, images, sounds, etc., American culture does. A charge of plagiarism can have severe consequences, including expulsion from a university or loss of a job, not to mention a writer's loss of credibility and professional standing. This resource [the Purdue site], which does not reflect any official university policy, is designed to help you develop strategies for knowing how to avoid accidental plagiarism.

The site goes on to provide in-depth information about determining whether a particular situation is or is not plagiarism and practices to help you avoid it.

An error that has surfaced in some seminar papers and in-class projects is simply reprinting word-for-word blocks of material with no quotation marks or documentation, but combining these blocks. For example, notice this version of the two quotations on plagiarism, above.

Research-based writing in American institutions, both educational and corporate, is filled with rules that writers, particularly beginners, aren't aware of or don't know how to follow. Many of these rules have to do with research and proper citation. Many cultures do not recognize Western notions of plagiarism, which rest on a belief that language and ideas can be owned by writers. While some cultures may not insist so heavily on documenting sources of words, ideas, images, sounds, etc., American culture does.

All this version does is cut and paste blocks of type exactly from the sources, rather like an artist making a collage, but without any artistic purpose. But the author has not even taken notes on the material, let alone done anything with it, and has not even used quotes and documentation to show that it’s not his/her own writing. For a professor trying to evaluate the student’s writing, after the plagiarized material has been eliminated, there’s simply nothing to evaluate.

Lunsford (208) provides a useful set of guidelines to help students avoid plagiarism and its consequences. They are reprinted (with minor deletions) here:

• Maintain an accurate and thorough working bibliography.
• Establish a consistent note-taking system, listing sources and page numbers and clearly identifying all quotations, paraphrases, summaries, statistics, and visuals.
• Identify all quotations with quotation marks—both in your notes and in your essay. Be sure your summaries and paraphrases use your own words and sentence structures.
• Give a citation or note for each quotation, paraphrase, summary, arguable assertion or opinion, statistic, and visual that is from a source.
• Prepare an accurate and complete list of sources cited according to the required documentation style.

Finding help

The Purdue Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource for both writing advice and information and samples related to documentation including MLA and APA guidelines); It’s located at

Good places to look for help in writing and documentation can be found in the Research Sources list at

A useful site with documentation links of different kind is the following: Dr. Charles Phillips Links to English Courses and Resources. at

EasyBib: The Automatic Bibliography & Citation Maker. This offers help with citations.

The Paradigm Online Writing Assistant offers help with basic writing skills. It’s located at

For a starting point in locating reference sources available online, try FrontPage: University of Florida Free Online Reference Sources:

Works Cited

Lunsford, Andrea. The Everyday Writer, 4th ed. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2008. Web. 16 April 2010.

Siegel, Gerald. Business and Professional Writing: A Guide to the Process, 2nd ed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt, 1994. Print.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hemingway Guide Questions

Hemingway Guide Questions

Big Two-Hearted River

1. Does “Big Two-Hearted River” give the impression of having in it a preponderance of submerged feeling, or meaning, or both? If so, how does Hemingway create that impression?

2. Discuss the apparent simplicity of Hemingway’s style. Is it as simple as it at first appears? How does Hemingway convey subtle and complex feelings? What role does imagery play in multiplying implications?

3. The story seems to center on Nick, the only human character who appears (except for the memories of Harry Hopkins). Does this technique result in a story in which nothing happens, or are there ways in which Nick’s behaviors and responses do create a “plot line”?

4. Does the use of “the” and “that” in “Big Two-Hearted River” support critic Walter Ong’s argument (quoted above) that these are crucial elements in Hemingway’s writing? Is a similar effect created by the use of “you” in such passages as “Ahead the river narrowed.... Nick thought”?

5. How useful is critic Philip Young’s interpretation of Nick as a “sick man”? Does it help to explain Nick’s thoughts and actions?

6. Is the judgment that “Big Two-Hearted River” is a story in which nothing happens justified?

7. Discuss Hemingway’s use of the landscape in “Big Two-Hearted River.”

8. The first two paragraphs of “Big Two-Hearted River” contrast the burned-over ground and the river. What is the effect of the first two paragraphs?

9. What is suggested by the fact that Nick watches “the trout keeping themselves steady in the current” for “a long time”? Does he identify them with his own efforts to keep himself steady?

10. When the landscape is described as “alive again” at the end of the story, what does this change imply about Nick’s recent experiences and his present state of mind?

11. Nick carefully observes rituals (such as the proper way to make camp, prepare food, catch bait, or fish). What purposes are served by these rituals? Is it Nick’s attempt to establish a stability, a comforting regularity and pattern that relieve him from the need to think or contemplate, relieve him from the workings of his mind? Does it help him to “choke it” when his mind is “starting to work”?

12. Is there anything in the story itself to support the conclusion that it’s about “coming back from the war”?

13. In the final seven paragraphs of “Big Two-Hearted River” Nick decides not to fish in the swamp, where “the river became smooth and deep” and the trees grew so close together that “You could not crash through the branches.” Why does Nick think that fishing in the swamp would be “tragic”? Why does he stop fishing, return to camp, and justify his actions with the thought (the last sentence of the story) that “There were plenty of days coming when he could fish the swamp”?

Soldier’s Home

1. From the information in the story, what can you determine about the setting of Krebs’ home?

2. What does the photograph of Krebs, the corporal, and the German girls reveal? What significance can be found in the contrast between this photograph and the one of Krebs and his fraternity brothers?

3. Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Champagne, St. Mihiel, and the Argonne were the sites of fierce and bloody fighting during World War I. What effects have these battles had on Krebs? Why do you think he won’t talk about them to then people at home?

4. Why does Krebs avoid complications and consequences? How has the war changed his attitudes toward work and women? How is his home town different from Germany and France? What is the conflict in the story?

5. Why do you think Hemingway refers to the protagonist as Krebs rather than Harold? What is the significance of his sister calling him “Hare”?

6. How does Krebs’ mother embody the community’s values? What does Krebs think of those values?

7. Why can’t Krebs pray with his mother?

8. What is the resolution to Krebs’ conflict?

9. Comment on the appropriateness of the story’s title.

10. Explain how Krebs’ war experiences are present throughout the story even though we gert no details about them.

11. What connections can you find between both of these stories and the events of Hemingway’s life?

Fitzgerald Guide Questions

F. Scott Fitzgerald Guide Questions

“Bernice Bobs Her Hair”

1. How can these stories be placed, if at all, in terms of Fitzgerald’s life? In terms of the cultural and historical background?

2. In what ways do these stories reflect or differ from other Fitzgerald works you may have read?

3. What familiar Fitzgerald themes do you find repeated and/or developed in these stories?

4. Discuss the perceptions Fitzgerald presents in the two stories. Are they generally accurate or are they as outdated as the 1920s in which he flourished? Is even his fantasy rooted in the 1920s?

5. Is “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” merely an amusing anecdote, or does it reach deep into the problems of relations between the sexes and between those of the same sex?

6. What is the function of “Eau Claire” in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”?

7. Why does Bernice decide to bob her hair? Why does she then regret it?

8. Is Bernice justified in the revenge she takes on Marjorie? What are your reactions to the ending?

9. How does Fitzgerald orchestrate the structure of events to make the bobbing of the hair and its aftermath the logical outcome of the situation?

10. How do you react to the society and the character types depicted in the story?

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

1. How does Fitzgerald, in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," use tone and style to create a world that is fantastical and dreamlike, yet realistic?

2. How does Fitzgerald employ humor in the story? In what ways is the idea of someone aging in reverse inherently humorous? How does Benjamin’s aging in reverse help you understand the story, the issues it deals with, and its characters?

3. By the time Benjamin takes over his father's company, his relationship with his father is dramatically different. Fitzgerald writes, "And if old Roger Button, now sixty-five years old, had failed at first to give a proper welcome to his son he atoned at last by bestowing on him what amounted to adulation." Benjamin's reverse aging is responsible for many of the highs and lows of his relationships with his father and his son. Do you think these relationships in some ways parallel those of all fathers and sons?

4. How does this story, though written almost a century ago, reflect our society's current attitude toward age and aging?

5. What is ironic about Benjamin marrying a "younger" woman? What does the story reveal about our perceptions of age and beauty?

6. The happier Benjamin becomes in his career, the more strained his marriage grows. Fitzgerald writes, "And here we come to an unpleasant subject which it will be well to pass over as quickly as possible. There was only one thing that worried Benjamin Button: his wife had ceased to attract him." Why does he fall out of love with Hildegarde?

7. How does Fitzgerald use Benjamin's condition to ridicule social norms?

8. When Benjamin returns from the war, Hildegarde, annoyed with his increasingly youthful appearance, says, "You're simply stubborn. You think you don't want to be like any one else....But just think how it would be if every one else looked at things as you do -- what would the world be like?" Later Fitzgerald writes of Roscoe, "It seemed to him that his father, in refusing to look sixty, had not behaved like a 'red-blooded he-man'...but in a curious and perverse manner." What is significant about their attitudes? How is it ironic that Hildegarde and Roscoe seem to believe that Benjamin should control his aging?

9. What does the story reveal about class and race issues?

10. In what ways would you call Benjamin’s being perceived as a source of shame or a threat symbolic? What would his otherness suggest about his society’s attitude toward him?

Common Message Formats

Common Message Formats

[Note: in the print version, the various letters appear on separate pages. Figure 4 goes to a second page where the page 2 notation is shown. In some cases, spacing and indents have been altered from the original in this web version. The original has been e-mailed to students in Business Writing classes.]

Formats for letters, memos, reports, and other written messages may vary from one organization to another although certain characteristics do recur. A memo, for example, generally includes date/to/from/topic information in a heading and presents a message (usually an internal one) next. Letters contain such traditional elements as return and inside addresses, salutations, complimentary closes, and signature blocks. Both letters and memos are normally typed single spaced, with double spacing between paragraphs. (Figures 1 through 5 provide examples of some typical memo and letter formats, but in some cases spacing is compressed. Word processing programs also contain sample templates.)

Reports tend to vary in format more than do letters or memos. Some consist simply of brief forms to be completed, while others, especially long, formal reports, start to resemble books, having title pages, contents pages, abstracts, headings, graphics, and other specialized elements. A range of report formats exists between these extremes; memos with enumeration and/or headings and multiple page reports with headings and subheadings are two common variations. Organizational style guides and standard handbooks can provide other useful examples.

If you work for a particular organization for any length of time, you'll probably find yourself using correct formats almost automatically in familiar situations. Otherwise, format should be one of your last concerns in the "shaping" process. Until you know the final content and structure of your message (down to the exact wording), you could be wasting time by worrying about correct format for material you may never use. Perhaps more important, concern about format at the start of your writing process can lure you into viewing as final text what may really be preparing materials--free writing, potential subject matter, or random jottings.

Of course, format does matter. By creating a favorable appearance through appropriate formats, you can produce writing that displays professionalism and creates a favorable impression upon its readers.

Figure 1. Memo Format.
DATE: March 2, 20xx
TO: Mike Motta
FROM: Professor Rita Rhodes
SUBJECT: Writing the Memorandum

This message illustrates a typical memorandum, probably the most common variety of administrative communication. Most memorandums are relatively brief and intended for use within an organization. However, memorandums can vary widely in length and purpose, sometimes extending to multi-page reports.

1. This example uses a customary format, but different organizations will have their own modifications. Some formats, for example, eliminate such heading labels as "date" or "subject." Here, the date is in U.S. format. Often, memos will be written upon pre-printed forms. Most memos do contain at least the information shown in the headings above. Few contain salutations or complimentary closes.

2. Don't feel you must slavishly imitate this sample or any sample or model used in this class (unless, of course, you're asked to use a particular format for a specific assignment). For example, not all memos will contain a numbered list.You should use recognized formats of some sort. Handbooks and your other textbooks may contain additional useful examples of some.

3. Memorandums may or may not include lists, enumerations, headings, tables, and other guides to readability. The communication situation usually determines whether you should use such aids.

4. The style of a memorandum should be conversational, yet professional. Since you'll often be sending memorandums to people you know well, you have greater flexibility in adapting style to audience when you write memos than you would for many other communication contexts.

5. If your instructor asks you to do so, use correct memorandum format to write the message he or she assigns.

Figure 2. Letter in Full Block Format.

4510 Winston Road
Portland, OR 97205-4321
8 July 8 20xx

Ms. Felicia Dushane
3422 Christopher Lane
Terra Haute, IN 47818-1234

Dear Ms. Dushane:

Here are the sample formats you requested when we spoke at the American Communication Association meeting last Friday. This series of letters illustrates some frequently used methods.

This letter is written in full block format, a simple format to remember and to type. All parts of the letter start at the left margin. Instead of a letterhead (which would also be acceptable), this version begins with your return address/date block. Your name would not appear here; it does, of course, appear below. Located four lines below is the inside address,the address of the person to whom you're writing. An alternate date format would be "20 March 20xx": because usage in some countries varies, avoid "3/2/xx" or 3.2.xx." This letter also illustrates use of the full nine-digit zip code.

A courtesy title (here Ms., although, of course, you could use Mr., Miss, Mrs., Dr., Doctor, Professor, Lieutenant, etc.) precedes your addressee's name. Letters usually include a courtesy title if the appropriate one is known to the writer. Sometimes names indicate the gender of the addressee and thus often suggest the appropriate courtesy title. In the case of names, like "Leslie" or "Chris," that could refer to either men or women, you may choose simply to use the full name without a courtesy title (for example, "Chris Kramer").

The salutation appears two line below the inside address. While the exact salutation may vary, the pattern shown here--"Dear" + a courtesy title + the addressee's last name--is the form most commonly used for business correspondence in the United States.

The text of the letter begins two lines below the salutation. Most letters (except for very short ones) are typed single-spaced with double spacing between paragraphs. Paragraph length varies, but four to sixteen lines is workable and easily readable.

The letter ends with a complimentary close, followed by four lines (for the signature) and a typed signature, often followed by the writer's job title. Frequently used complimentary closes include "Sincerely," "Yours truly," and "Cordially."


Anthony Garcia
Communications Specialist

Figure 3. Letter in Semi-block Format.
CCI [This letterhead is pre-printed and centered in the print version.]
Communications Consultants, Inc.
4510 Winston Rd., Portland, OR 97205

July 8, 19xx

Ms. Felicia Dushane
3422 Christopher Lane
Terra Haute, IN 47818

Dear Ms. Dushane:

This sample letter uses "semi-block" or "modified block" format and letterhead stationery. As in many variations of full block form, the main differences are in the placement of the date (or, if letterhead is not used, of the entire date/return address block) and of the complimentary close/signature block. Here, these sections begin at the center of the page. The result is a letter that is more balanced in appearance than that produced using the full block format.

If one of these "center line" elements (for example, a long address if no letterhead is used or a long job title) will not fit on the page using this format, all the elements can be started a few spaces to the left of the center line. Another approach locates the longest line in any of these elements, counts back this number of spaces from the right margin, and begins all lines in these elements at that indent setting.

The first two letters use "mixed punctuation" for the salutation and the complimentary close: a colon follows the salutation, and a comma follows the complimentary close. (The next letter in this series will illustrate "open punctuation," a practice which uses no punctuation in these positions.) Although so-called "friendly" personal letters may use a comma after the salutation as well as after the complimentary close, business letters generally do not, except for some sales and promotional messages.


Anthony Garcia
Communications Specialist

Figure 4. Letter in Indented Semi-block Format.

Communications Consultants, Inc.
4510 Winston Rd., Portland, OR 97205
(503) 555-6789

July 8, 19xx

Ms. Ingrid Weill
Director of Publications
Media Production Associates
8841 Eastwood Avenue
Scranton, PA 18547

Dear Ms. Weill


Here is an example of a semi-block letter with indented paragraphs, another step toward more attractive page make-up. This sample also illustrates use of "open" punctuation, a practice which eliminates the punctuation after the salutation and the complimentary close. If the name of the addressee were unavailable for this message, the position title ("Dear Director") could be used instead. If the writer and reader knew each other, in some cases "Dear Ingrid" might be acceptable.

In this form, each paragraph is indented 4-8 spaces (in the case of this sample, five spaces). The margins in these sample letters, 1" on all sides, are the default settings of several word processing programs and work well for most situations; some authorities suggest 1 1/4" for right and left margins and 1" for top and bottom. With letterhead stationary, the first line (usually the date) begins 2 to 2 1/2" from the top of the page.For A4 paper, the margins are metric and will differ. For short letters, the space between date line and inside address and that between complimentary close and typed signature may be adjusted; the margins may also be widened.

An optional "subject line" like that used here can be incorporated into most standard formats; it provides an easy way of indicating a message's topic without slowing the letter's opening. The actual word "subject" needn't always appear.

In practice, many organizations will have their own margin requirements, often contained in the organization's style manual. The margins suggested here apply to the standard 8 1/2" x 11" stationary used by U.S. private firms. The United States government and foreign organizations may use different paper sizes (such as A4) and margins. In any case, the most attractive letters result from having an appropriately wide "picture frame" of white space around the "picture" of the letter text itself.

Sometimes letters will extend beyond a single page. In such cases, the second (and subsequent) pages should be written on plain paper, not letterhead. While various

Ms. Ingrid Weill, July 8, 20xx, page 2 [A new page starts here in print version.]

heading formats are used, pages beyond the first, most include certain elements: the name of the addressee, the date, and the page number.

If you would like more information about possible formats or if you have any further questions, call me at the number above any day between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.


Anthony Garcia
Communications Specialist

Figure 5. Letter in AMS Simplified Format.

CCI [This letterhead is pre-printed and centered in the print version.]
Communications Consultants, Inc.
4510 Winston Rd., Portland, OR 97205
(503) 555-6789

July 8, 20xx

Ms. Ingrid Weill
Media Production Associates
8841 Eastwood Avenue
Scranton, PA 18547
U. S. A.


Here, Ms. Weill, is another in the series of letter formats you requested.

Some years ago, the Administrative Management Society developed this style. Although this format has been used in only limited situations, it can be quite useful, especially for routine situations where salutations and complimentary closes (both of which this format eliminates in favor of a topic line and a typed signature) are inappropriate. For example, a request for a catalog or for reservations, especially when not addressed to any particular individual, lends itself well to this format.

Notice that the word "SUBJECT" does not actually appear in the subject line. The format uses open punctuation and capital letters in both the topic and signature lines. If the letter goes to an individual, that person's name can be mentioned early in the message, possibly in the opening sentence.

The letters following the typed signature indicate that Anthony Garcia dictated the letter and that it was typed by someone else with the initials "D.S." The letter "c" (for "copy"; "cc" is sometimes used to indicate a "carbon copy" or "courtesy copy") shows where copies of the letter were sent.


c: Scott N. Willard