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Title: The MLA Research Paper: An Overview


1
The MLA Research Paper An Overview
By Bert Dill
2
Major Steps
Understand the assignment
Discover the argument
Gather the evidence
Write the report
3
Understand the Assignment
General research paper issues
Frequently
Asked
Questions
Specific Assignment details
Subject
Format
Length
Worth
Time
Procedure
4
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Research Paper?
How will it be Graded?
Why is it Assigned?
How am I ever going to write one?
5
What is a Research Paper?
A formal, written argument in which all evidence
is systematically documented
formal
argument
Key ideas
evidence
systematically documented
6
key ideas formal
Characterized by strict observation of forms,
customs, rules, or patterns
In this case, we will use the MLA system
Modern Language Association
7
key ideas argument
noun
--a reason given in proof or rebuttal for or
against something
--a coherent series of reasons so given
--to give evidence of some claim
verb (to argue)
--to give reasons for or against something
lt Latin, argentum Greek arguro?
etymology
The chemical element silver that is, the clear
metal
Hence, an argument always aims at clarification.
8
key ideas evidence
facts such as
gathered from
books
examples
periodicals
witnesses
expert testimony
web sites
records
surveys
interviews
laws
used to support an argument
9
key ideas systematically documented
written with all evidence clearly identified and
tagged according to a prescribed system
What prescribed system?
Modern Language Association
10
Frequently Asked Questions
How will it be Graded?
11
How Will it be Graded?
By the same standards as any other essay
unity
specificity
coherence
style
12
unity
All parts of your essay must aim toward a single
rhetorical purpose.
That single purpose should be expressed in a
thesis statement.
The one goal of your essay is to gain acceptance
of your thesis.
13
specificity
The argument must be rich in supporting evidence
facts such as
gathered from
books
examples
periodicals
web sites
expert testimony
surveys
records
interviews
laws
used to support an argument
14
coherence
(from Latin, sticks together)
well organized
The essay must follow a sensible plan or outline.
The essay must employ adequate and logical
transitions.
clear and understandable
The essay must be free of errors in grammar,
spelling, usage, punctuation, and logic.
15
style
Diction --
Correct word choice
denotation
literal meaning
connotation
implications and associations
Sentence patterns --
varied
in length, word order, emphasis, etc.
emphatic
active and forceful
euphonious
appropriately rhythmic and balanced
Figures of speech --
appropriate and clear use of metaphors,
similes, analogies, etc
16
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it Assigned?
17
Why is it Assigned?
In many cases it is required.
A general education requirement established by
the college, the governing board, and
all accreditation agencies
It is the standard form of communication in
the academic world.
It is your instructors job to make your life
miserable.
(And he enjoys his work.)
18
Frequently Asked Questions
How am I ever going to write one?
19
How am I ever going to write one?
Complete all the steps your instructor assigns.
1.
Do not procrastinate
2.
3.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 above. . .
20
Understand the Assignment
Specific Assignment details
Subject
Format
Length
Worth
Time
Procedure
21
subject
Subjects or subject areas for any argument are
usually predetermined
In school
-- by the instructor
-- by the course content
In business
-- by a supervisor
-- by the needs of the business
In communities and organizations
-- by the nature of problems being faced
Stick to the prescribed subject or subject range
22
format
Follow the basic MLA layout, including
8 1/2 " by 11" paper
Double space
1" margins all around
One side of the paper
Name and page numbers in upper right
23
length
Basic rules for any essay
Whatever is necessary to make your point
Be very thorough--cover it completely
Avoid obvious padding
(the goal is more ideas, not more words)
Follow instructions.
ASK for guidelines.
24
value
What is the paper worth?
Check the course syllabus.
Ask the instructor.
Assume that that the value assigned reflects
the effort expected.
Complete all preliminary steps
(They may be part of the grade.)
25
time
Make a schedule for all steps
Work on the project in some way daily
Anticipate delays
(especially for unusual evidence such as letters)
Submit on time
26
procedure
Follow each step your instructor has assigned
Submit as required
topic
preliminary thesis
preliminary (working) bibliography
preliminary outline
organized notes
Follow the schedule Submit each item on time
draft
final draft
27
Major Steps
Understand the assignment
Discover the argument
Gather the evidence
Write the report
28
Discover the Argument
Use the tools of discovery to
narrow the subject
state the thesis
lay out the main lines of argument
determine the kinds of evidence needed
29
Tools of Discovery
subject
questioning techniques
lists of topics
topic
brainstorming
freewriting
rhetorical goal
main lines of argument
kinds of evidence
preliminary outline
thesis statement
working bibliography
30
expect changes
Each new idea or fact alters things.
Each change forces reexamination.
working bibliography
thesis statement
preliminary outline
31
the thesis statement
From the Harbrace College Handbook
Thesis--the central point or main idea of an
essay. It is one of the main ways an essay is
unified.
The thesis is the purpose of the essay.
If there is no thesis--stated or unstated--there
is no essay.
Having a clearly stated thesis unifies the
argument.
Having a clearly stated thesis simplifies the
writing task.
Nothing so facilitates writing as actually
having something to say. -- Aristides
32
the thesis statement
Not an absolute fact
During the 1630s a large number of English
Puritans settled around Boston.
The original Constitution of the United States
permitted the practice of slavery.
Geronimo led a handful of Apaches in a long
struggle of resistance against the United
States Army.
None of these claims needs to be argued
They are all good subject areas, but poor theses.
33
the thesis statement
Not a declaration of personal taste
The poetry of Phyllis Wheatly is the most
beautiful writing in all of American history.
The novels of Henry James are boring and
confusing.
I really love Dixieland Jazz.
American Transcendentalism is fascinating.
None of these claims can be argued with any
evidence other than personal preference.
They are all good subject areas, but poor theses.
34
the thesis statement
Not a question
Why did Hamilton, Madison, and Jay write The
Federalist Papers?
How did the Americans crack the Japanese
Purple Code in World War II?
What role did the United States Navy play
during the Civil War?
None of these are claims. A question is not
arguable.
However, the answer to a question is often a good
thesis.
35
the thesis statement
A claim
--not an undeniable fact--
--not a personal preference--
--not a question--
capable of being supported with reasons and
evidence.
Although the Great Awakening seemed to be a
reactionary return to fundamental Calvinist
theology in response to the growing Deism of the
Enlightenment, its emphasis on emotional
response, individual spiritual experience,
and personal choice actually looks forward to the
Romantic Age.
36
the thesis statement
Although the Great Awakening seemed to be a
reactionary return to fundamental Calvinist
theology in response to the growing Deism of the
Enlightenment, its emphasis on emotional
reaction, individual spiritual experience,
and personal choice actually looks forward to the
Romantic Age.
This thesis sets the goal
(to show that the Awakening had romantic
aspects)
1. Calvinism
This thesis lays out an essay structure
2. The Deist challenge
3. The Romantic response
This thesis suggests areas in which evidence
will be needed.
a. emotional reaction
b. individual experience
c. personal choice
37
the thesis statement
The statement sets forth the first major steps
for the writer.
rhetorical goal
main lines of argument
kinds of evidence
thesis statement
preliminary outline
working bibliography
Remember that changes may occur new points to
cover, new sources of evidence to examine, new
phrasing of the thesis.
38
Major Steps
Understand the assignment
Discover the argument
Gather the evidence
Write the report
narrow the subject
state the thesis
Tools of discovery
lay out the main lines of argument
determine the kinds of evidence needed
39
Discover the Argument
the tools of discovery
questioning techniques
lists of topics
brainstorming
freewriting
40
Questioning Techniques
Modern (journalists) questions
Who?
What?
When?
Where?
Why?
How?
Classic status questions
Questions of fact
Is it a fact?
Questions of definition
What kind is it?
Questions of degree or value
What is its degree or value?
Questions of venue or procedure
When, where, and how should it be argued?
41
Apply the questions to the subject
Who?
subject
Is it a fact?
What?
What kind is it?
When?
What is its degree or value?
topic
Where?
Why?
When, where, and how should it be argued?
How?
main lines of argument
kinds of evidence
rhetorical goal
preliminary outline
thesis statement
working bibliography
42
Discover the Argument
the tools of discovery
questioning techniques
lists of topics
brainstorming
freewriting
43
Lists of topics
Classical common topics
A list
ideas used by rhetoricians to discover subjects
and points of argument for almost any subject
area.
Classical special topics
A list of
ideas used by rhetoricians to discover subjects
and points of argument for special areas of
argument law, politics, ceremony
Modern rhetorical modes
A
list of structural and logical methodologies used
by modern rhetoricians to discover subjects and
points of argument for almost any subject area.
44
Classical common topics
Definition
Relationships
genus
cause and effect
division
antecedent and consequence
Comparison
contraries
similarity
contradictions
Circumstances
in kind
possible/impossible
in degree
difference
past fact/future fact
Testimony
in kind
authority
maxims
in degree
testimonial
law
statistics
precedent
Apply these to the subject area
45
Classical Special Topics
These 3 areas of argument were traditionally taugh
t as the appropriate fields of rhetoric
Forensic Argument
(law)
guilt/innocence
justice/injustice
Political Argument
(group decision)
advantage/disadvantage
Do any of these contrasts apply to your subject?
Epideictic (ceremonial)
praise/blame
46
Modern Rhetorical Modes
Description
Experts disagree about both the content and the
ordering of the list of rhetorical modes.
Narration
Exemplification
This particular list is taken from the table of
contents of a modern composition text book.
Process Analysis
Classification
Comparison
Each of these is a method of developing and
ordering ideas. Can you apply one or more of
these to your subject?
Definition
Cause-Effect
47
Discover the Argument
the tools of discovery
questioning techniques
lists of topics
brainstorming
freewriting
48
Brainstorming
northern
national
international
politics
copperheads
southern
battles
Radical republicans
fire eaters
abolitionism
Civil War
medical
Finding a topic of interest
49
Brainstorming
The gag rule battle in House of Reps.
Theodore Weld
John Quincy Adams
Amistad case
John Brown
other famous abolitionists
Supreme court argument
Harriet Tubman
abolitionism
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Frederick Douglas
Angelina Grimké
Sarah Grimké
Narrowed topic Women abolitionists who were
writers and speakers
50
Brainstorming
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Angelina Grimké
Sarah Grimké
Preliminary Thesis
Through their rhetorical skills, three women,
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Angelina Grimké, and Sarah
Grimké, greatly advanced the abolitionist cause
by increasing public awareness and support.
51
Discover the Argument
the tools of discovery
questioning techniques
lists of topics
brainstorming
freewriting
52
Freewriting
Fill up the paper as fast as you can without
stopping to think about spelling, punctuation,
logic, or style. Dont stop writing during the
assigned time limit-- no more than eight to ten
minutes
Did you find any ideas?
53
Major Steps
Understand the assignment
Discover the argument
Gather the evidence
Write the report
54
Gather Evidence
gathered from
facts such as
books
examples
periodicals
witnesses
web sites
expert testimony
Evidence
surveys
records
interviews
laws
used to support an argument.
MLA requires that all the evidence be documented
by parenthetical citation and bibliographic
listing.
55
Select a useful source
Begin with a source that will likely give you the
best overview of your topic
56
Document the source
title
author
publication data
57
Bibliography Card
Necessary elements
Book--one author
author
title
MLA Handbook for
Writers of Research Papers.
Gibaldi, Joseph.
The Modern Language Associatio
n of America,
New York
publication data
1999.
Note the hanging indentation
Other, optional information (will not appear on
the works cited page)
58
Bibliography Card
Book--one author
Kahn, David.
Seizing the Enigma The
Race to Break the German U-Boat Codes
1939-1943.
Boston

Houghton Mifflin,
1991.
59
Bibliography Card
Book--two authors
Benton, Janetta Rebold and Robert DiYanni.
Arts and Culture An Intro-
duction to the Humanities.

Upper Saddle River, NJ
Prentice Hall,
1999.
60
Bibliography Card
Article in an anthology
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady.
A
Slaves Appeal. Negotiating Differences
Cultural Case Studies for Composition.
Eds. Patricia Bizzel and Bruce Herzberg.
Boston
Bedford St.
Martins, 1996. 357-369.
61
Bibliography Cards
Each type of source has its own bibliographic
format
books
articles
multiple authors
journals
anonymous authors
magazines
translations
newspapers
republished
movies
interview and lectures
E-mail
Web-sites
Look these up in Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA
Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th ed.
New YorkThe Modern Language Association, 1999.
62
gather the evidence
Look for evidence (facts, dates, experts,
witnesses, etc.) that will support your argument.
63
Record the Evidence
Source refers to a a name on one of the
bibliography cards
Johnson
III.B. Smiths arrest
Source refers to a a page number where the
evidence is found.
pg 96
I was present at the opening of the exhibition
and saw Mr. Smith steal the painting.
Goal Where you intend to use this material in
your essay
The evidence you need to support your point.
Each type of source presents peculiar
problemsSome sources have no author names
othershave no page numbers. MLA provides
solutions
64
Repeat the Process Until You Have All Your
Evidence
65
Put Away Your Research Materials
And begin composing the essay.
66
Major Steps
Understand the assignment
Discover the argument
Gather the evidence
Write the report
67
Separate Note Cards from Bibliography Cards
Name. Title. City publisher, date.
Author page
evidence
Sort the note cards into the sameorder as your
outline. Sort the bibliography cards into
alphabeticalorder.
68
First Draft
Begin writing yourrough draft. When youreach a
place where you need evidence
Of course, this procedure may be done
electronically with cut and paste functions.
In fact, there are whole programs dedicated to
composing research papers.
Attach the card and continue. . .
69
Complete the Works Cited Page
Carefully copy the information from
the bibliography cards, using exact MLA standards
(including hanging indentation, alphabetical
order, etc.), to prepare the Works Cited page
of your essay.
70
Prepare the Works Cited Page
Works Cited
Benton, Janetta Rebold and Robert DiYanni. Arts
and Culture An Introduction to the
Humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice
Hall, 1999.
Kahn, David. Seizing the Enigma The Race to
Break the German U-Boat Codes 1939-1943.
Boston Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. A Slaves Appeal.
Negotiating Differences Cultural Case Studies
for Composition. Eds. Patricia Bizzel
and Bruce Herzberg. BostonBedford St. Martins,
1996. 357-369.
71
Good Writing is Rewriting
Revise, edit, proofread, and rewrite your draft.
Remember
As the Romans said
Labor Omnia Vincit.
(Work conquers all)
72
Turn It in as Instructed--Do Not be late
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