I'm writing a research paper for my English class but I get really confused with what is expected of me from this paper!
First off, I chose "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Kesey. The topic I decided to go with was 'sexism' since there are a lot of critical commentaries on that. I have gathered plenty of sources (pro and counter arguments) and have an idea of what I will say.
HOWEVER, my problem is the more I think about the structure, the more confused I get. I've read 2 "How to write a research paper" books and a few articles online, and all tell me to do something different.
I don't know whether I should divide my paragraphs by source, by argument, by character, etc. I dont know how to make the thesis specific enough, or word it to seem "opinionated" and "research-dependent".
I simply might be over-thinking it, but if anyone can guide me in the right direction I'd be very grateful.
Wow, it sounds like you have really done a lot of preparation! It would have been better if your teacher had provided an outline to guide you. Since you don't have one, I suggest you write a thesis and brainstorm supporting points based on what you read and your own arguments.
Excellent advice provided above, but just to add one idea that may help you once you have established your thesis and have clear direction. I don't know why necessarily, but a lot of my essays have 3 main points. It just seems to work well and produces good, well-rounded essays that do not have too many middle paragraphs. Therefore, once you have your thesis, work on selecting the three main points you wish to make and use them as your middle paragraphs. See how it looks and go for it! Good luck...
Excellent advice given by pohnpei397. It will be much easier if you decide what stand you're going to take and then stop worrying and just (like Nike) do it. With regard to point counter point, your writing will probably be stronger if your stand (thesis) is your "point" your acknolwedgment of other view points is your "counter point". It's okay to use information that disagrees with what you are trying to prove as long as you have plenty of reputable sources that support your "point".
Post your thesis, and then ask specific questions about that, and it will be much easier to get informative feedback.
As far as your thesis and its wording, maybe you could post it and get input that way. I think it would be easier for us to comment on something you've already put up than to try to anticipate your argument.
For dividing up the paragraphs, my preference (but I imagine this varies by teacher) would be for the paragraphs to be divided by argument. What I would want to see would be point-counterpoint (assuming you're doing that) on each argument. I like to read essays that are easy to follow and I think that structure fits the bill...
And I do think it's easy to overthink. To me it's necessary at times to quit thinking and start writing. That often helps me focus.
If you are confused about what is expected of you about what is expected of you, the best source of help your teacher who will evaluate your paper and, I expect, also provide some guidance on how research for your paper and write it.
However, if your real problem is your inability to make up your mind about various issues and lack of confidence in ability to take the right decision, you are not alone to face such situation. This kind of problems is faced by many people including students that appear to be able to write papers and essays with ease. There is a very effective way to deal with such kind of problem.
Do not try to write a perfect paper in the first attempt. You can start by producing something that is concrete without bothering about its quality. Subsequently you work on improving the quality of your paper. You need to assign time limits for completing the total paper. Out of this about half the time should be spent on the initial draft of paper. This time for the first draft needs to be apportioned further to about three or four sub activities like doing primary research, and deciding on the information to be included in paper. Once you have set a time limit for each activity, do not exceed that limit. Do your best possible within that time, and proceed to next stage.
In the first draft you don't need to bother too much about things like dividing paragraph. The main objective of the fist draft is to get all your ideas written down on paper. Presenting these ideas most convincingly in an interesting way is the task to be accomplished in the second stage of revising and improving the draft. The kind of skills required for generating the ideas and their proper presentation require two very different kind of skills and approach, and should not be mixed up. You will find that your task of making your presentation becomes very easy when all your ideas are clear. This approach will result in better content as well as better presentation of your paper.