Literary research paperI am searching for any new, fresh ideas on writing a literary research paper for my Honors English 11 students.  In the past, they selected an American author, read a major...

Literary research paper

I am searching for any new, fresh ideas on writing a literary research paper for my Honors English 11 students.  In the past, they selected an American author, read a major work from that author, wrote a novel analysis, and addressed several criticisms.  Although I believe this assignment incorporates the skills taught in my class, I'm not certain that the students share the same feeling about this research paper as I do.  So, any ideas will be helpful.  Thank you in advance for responding.

Expert Answers
timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As you can tell from my eariler post, I have a little different slant on this.  I taught/administered in HS for 38 years and am finishing my career teaching in College.  I think it is much more important that students learn how to WRITE in HS, not that they learn a particular form.  Anything that makes students more willing to write is, to me, a good thing; and anything that makes writing just a chore, is a thing.  A research paper is just another form of writing, and colleges can teach this form when it is necessary; one of the courses I teach now is entitled "Research Writing."  I know there are many courses/programs in HS that seem to require the research paper, but writing the paper seems to become more important than writing well.  If I had to do it all over again, I would spend most of my time teaching students how to write using things they cared about, and leave the research paper for later on.  My students who can write, even if they have never written a research paper, seem to catch on quickly; the students who can't write, even if they have "turned out" a research paper in HS, are never able to write a  good paper.

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This may or may not help (depending on how formal you are with the assignment), but I have had students create a "correspondence" between two or three characters in an author's work.  The letters must demonstrate an understanding of the the character, his/her situation/conflict, the relationship between the characters, and, most importantly, must be interesting.

Some students do very well with this assignment; others are much more comfortable with the somewhat safer formal paper.

I use this same technique after we read a novel or see a play.  I give the students two characters, and they have to write a letter (one way usually) between the two of them.  For example, in O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods, I have them write a letter from Kathy to her sister, or visa versa.  The student is free to pick the "time" in the novel.  I then have them read their letters aloud.  They often spark some very interesting discussions, and the students don't seem to be as intimitated as they often were when I asked what they thought of a character.

Jen Sambdman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I REALLY like the idea proposed by Amy. I do a lot of creating, building, crafty stuff in my classroom because of the type of kids I teach so I am totally stealing the room idea. For my literary research paper they also had the option of not only doing a novel author, but a short story author or poet and had to read a lot of short stories or poems because of their reading level. You could open it up like that because maybe, although they are honors kids, the idea of reading another full novel might be a little daunting to them.

My kids then do the traditional information incorporated in a traditional research paper but they also have to find a song or a movie based on what they read in a non-direct way. Example: Oh Brother Where Art Thou? for the Odyssey by Homer. And then they would have to do a character sketch of the author. One of my kids took a montage of Homer Simpson but actually compiled a compilation with Homer's finer moments in the Simpsons that could be paralleled with Homer. It was really interesting and time consuming but he really go into that.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with those who have mentioned that as high school teachers, we should be attempting to prepare kiddos for college. There are those who will not attend college, but all will need research and critical thinking skills.  If you decide to add anything, why not have them --after researching their lives and personal tastes-- design a room or suite of rooms for the character?  This would incorporate research skills and critical thinking, and if you have them explain why they have incorporated certain furniture, colors, etc. regarding personal tastes, literary preferences, etc.  This might be a thoughtful, fun, and worthwhile project in addition to the reserach component.  Plus, they're getting additional public speaking practice.

rshaffer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thanks to those who have responded to my post so far.  I like the multimedia idea because it would make the research project more interesting and will also help with their senior project presentation.

I also like the idea of creating "correspondence" between characters as suggested by timbrady.  Even if I don't incorporate this idea in the research project, I am definitely considering it for other works.  In fact, we just finished studying The Crucible, and I think it would be a great assignment to have Abigail write a letter to John and/or Elizbeth Proctor and vice versa.

morrol eNotes educator| Certified Educator

rshaffer, students don't like writing research papers. It isn't fun. Regardless, it is a skill that they need to learn for college. No college professor is going to allow students to write a correspondence between characters or authors. You are already allowing the students to choose their own text. I think you are doing everything right. Not every assignment you do has to be fun. Research papers are meant to be suffered through.

You could add a multimedia segment, but don't replace anything with it. Students must know how to write a research paper in order to be successful in college.

litchick2011 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am going to have to agree with morrol. You could certainly add a more "fun" element to the assignment, but the research aspect is essential for upper level high school, particularly those students who are going on to a 4 - year college. One thing that helps my students with unpleasant tasks is to force them to break up the work into manageable chuncks, which I am sure you already do.

I do have to say, though, that I have never had to fill out annotated bibliography index cards at any point in my college or graduate level perhaps that is an aspect you could gloss over.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I use the idea that others have suggested of getting students to not only write a paper but to also present that paper using a format such as powerpoint. This then assesses the student both on their written work but also their ability in public speaking and in designing and giving a presentation. Am I the only one that sees PowerPoint used disastrously practically every week? Training students in how to make an effective powerpoint presentation should be a must for us as teachers.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Why not add a multimedia component, such as creating a Power Point presentation or writing and performing a theme song for the novel? Perhaps they could adapt the novel for a movie and cast well-known actors as each of the characters.

rshaffer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Points well taken in #5 and #6.  Thank you for your comments and advice on my topic. :)

reiton | Student

 You mention that the research paper is literary.  To me research and research paper are not synonymous.  Research is the gathering of information to solve a problem, to answer a question, or to complete a task.  The end result can be anything, one of which is most often a written summary of the information often times simply transferred from one source to another and reworded.  If it has to be literary, maybe you could create criteria for a literary anthology on authors or literary works.  I have found synthesizing the information into a different media is more rewarding for the students and much more interesting for me to evaluate and read than a traditional paper.   Set criteria for the types of work that would qualify for the anthology (genre, era, gender, culture, etc.).  Have the students set out to research authors or literary works that would qualify for publication in the anthology.  Then have them present evidence from their research to support why this particular work should be published.   You could easily add a technological side to this if you wanted to make this multimedia. Publish both the evidence and a summary of the work.  Research can be a rewarding experience and not something to be dreaded.

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