feedback sought on paper 4

This is the final paper in British Literature, 1660-1740. I have a lot of questions, so please weigh in. It’s kind of a short description. Maybe too short. Ideally, by the end of the semester, students will have had a good bit of practice (through two papers and lots of class discussion) at

  • analyzing literary texts carefully and thoughtfully,
  • understanding how these literary texts affect and are affected by the culture in which they are written and read,
  • reading and evaluating literary scholars’ arguments,
  • generating good research/analysis questions,
  • and answering good research/analysis questions.

In other words, while at the beginning I might hold their hands a little through some of the basics of studying literature, by the end of the semester, they ought to be more capable and independent. Is that an unreasonable expecation?

I don’t give them suggested topics. Should I? I require them to address 2 or 3 different texts in the hopes that this will make plagiarism more difficult. Is that a mistake? I require them to use 5 scholarly sources in their paper. Is that a reasonable expectation?

Should the description be longer? Should it be more directive?

Literary analysis concerning 2 or 3 works we’ve read this semester
Due Date: Monday, April 30
Length: 1,500-2,000 words
Value: 20% of final grade
Description: This assignment requires you to write a persuasive argument supporting a clearly stated thesis concerning at least two but no more than three of the works we have read this semester. Any topic you choose should be cleared by me before {insert date here}. Your paper must cite at least five scholarly sources. Your paper must use textual evidence to support your argument and to engage in thoughtful analysis.

Finally, (and I’m just kind of writing and thinking this through at the same time) I’m make the paper due on last day of class–as you can see from the course calendar–and I’m also giving a final exam. In the past I have required students to turn in a 1- or 2-page prospectus two weeks before the paper is due with the aim of getting them thinking about and working on their final papers early enough to devote a decent amount of time to the project…I’m not sure why I didn’t include that here. Part of my hesitation is that their work on the final project starts to compete with what we’re reading in the last weeks of class. For example, if a prospectus is due two weeks before the final paper is due, then they’re not going to be writing about The Beggar’s Opera unless they read ahead. On the other hand, the final exam can cover that material pretty thoroughly.

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