Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Research Crumbs

I'm working on my questionnaire thing, so that I can get it all ready for the IRB and ready to do the project. But every time I talk to someone who's smart and has done stuff before, they have a good question that brings me to a stop for a while. That's good, because each time, figuring out the answer helps me. But it's also frustrating in that endless draft way.

So here's how you can help: I'm trying to figure out a good term(s) for the sorts of papers I'm interested in researching about within English literature courses. I've been using "research paper," but a colleague just gave me some really helpful feedback and thinks that the term itself might be confusing and/or misleading. S/he suggested that "literary analysis" was what s/he'd been assigned as an English major.

So, what term(s) do you use for the "big paper" usually due near the end of a junior or senior level lit course?

If anyone would be willing to send me a copy of an assignment for one of these papers, I'd find that helpful, because I need to think about how these work before I ask my colleagues here. (If you're a colleague here, pretend you aren't for the moment, or something.) My email is bardiacblogger AT yahoo DOT com.

Thanks, oh wise sharers of the blogosphere!


  1. I bet you'll find that there's an enormous variety of terms in play for these papers. I don't teach literature courses, so I don't have any particular terms to recommend. But I just completed an analysis of terms used in the history department for papers assigned in their courses, and found an amazing variety of terms used for projects that are substantially similar.

    I'm guessing you'll find "research project," or "term paper" or "paper" in use. I just looked at my own colleagues' literature course descriptions for fall and found that they all emphasize the reading to be done but don't name the actual writing assignments. I think that they would all agree with your colleague that "literary analysis" is the intellectual skill they want to foster but I haven't heard that term in use as shorthand for the papers required.

  2. For me "literary analysis" could just me a close reading or explication. In my composition class, I've started calling the paper a "documented argument" so that they won't think I want a an informational report. In my lit classes (lower level), I just call the capstone project a "term paper" because I don't want what I *call* the paper to give them preconceptions about what it involves. I save the details for the rubric.

    But if you need a more descriptive name, perhaps you could think of adding a word like "documented" or "critical" or something really convoluted like "literary analysis/argument that is documented with critical support."

    Pure poetry, eh?