As a class oriented towards upper-division majors and minors, ENGL/THRE 3333 should help to guide students into the kind of work done by scholars in the field. In large part, scholarly work in English studies and in the academic humanities more generally consists of interpreting art in one medium or another, commonly deploying the interpretations of others, and presenting that interpretation as a means to help others advance the collective understanding of the many ways in which art functions. Many of the presentations take place at academic conferences, where scholars are commonly invited to give fifteen- to twenty-minute talks as one of several taking related approaches to a particular body of work—and it is towards offering practice in doing so that the major sequence of assignments in ENGL/THRE 3333 is directed.
Academic conferences in the humanities typically expect that the papers presented reflect investment in the ideas contained, both in terms of content development and in terms of polish of prose. They are to represent work that can stand on its own and inform the work of other scholars, as well as to withstand interrogation by those scholars in person and in later review. Further, they are expected to be the kind of paper that can be expanded into journal articles, scholarly book chapters, or scholarly monographs.
To compose such a paper, students will need to accomplish a number of tasks:
- Refine the topic, thesis, and argument structure expressed in the Expl, likely incorporating materials found in the AnnBib;
- Develop a counter-argument and rebuttal to the thesis, possibly incorporating materials found in the AnnBib;
- Develop additional points of support for the thesis, basing them in primary, secondary, and (possibly) tertiary/critical evidence and offering rigorous explanation of the same; and
- Compile the above into a conference-length paper, 2,600 to 3,250 words in length, submitting it online as the FinPap, a major assignment worth 20% of the total course grade.
The Expl is an avowedly intermediary document, developing only in limited form an argument to be tested in advance of further development. To be able to carry out that development, though, requires greater specificity than an exploratory essay allows. In many cases, topics must be narrowed yet further than from the PProp to the Expl—paradoxically, admittedly, but narrower topics allow for deeper investigation. In many cases, the thesis will need to be similarly narrowed, refining as the topic refines to more accurately portray the argument to be made in the paper. The same will be true of the argumentative structure to be deployed in the paper, what points are to be made and the order in which they are to be made shifting in response to more exacting thesis and topic—as well as adjusting to include other materials, discussed below.
The FinPap will need to display topic, thesis, and argumentative structures tightened from those presented in the Expl, in no small part because the argument to be made in the longer paper will begin to be developed in it. That development obliges a stronger framework on which to hang the argument, so having a clearer topic, thesis, and structure in mind will be necessary.
The FinPap still needs to articulate context for the argument to be made, as well as moving through a reasonable (and expanded) order of support for it—whether sequentially within the topic discussed or in emphatic order based on the relative perceived strength of the points being made. It should also offer some kind of concluding statement appropriate to a conference paper, not a recapitulation of the thesis and points made, but a motion towards what future research can do with the thesis that is to be validated in the FinPap.
As a work meant for dissemination to a scholarly community, the FinPap will need to ground itself in the ongoing scholarly discussion about its chosen topic. This means it will need to engage with views of the topic other than that which it advanced. That is, it will need to present a counter-argument, described in the materials for a similar assignment—“Northern Oklahoma College, ENGL 1213: Composition II—Researched Paper”—as “an opposing or divergent view to that articulated in the thesis. In effect, a counter-argument serves to anticipate a possible objection to the thesis being argued, something which helps to strengthen authorial ethos in that it demonstrates superior command of relevant material and a considered approach to it.” Those materials note also that the counter-argument has to be presented and treated with respect, avoiding fallacy; it needs to be given the same amount of attention as a solid point argued in favor of the thesis.
It needs also to be accompanied by a rebuttal, which the same materials assert “serves to demonstrate that the counter-argument is in some way incorrect or inapplicable to the specific situation being discussed by the thesis. In effect, the rebuttal serves to undercut the potential objection raised in the counter-argument, clearing intellectual ground upon which to build the argument that supports the thesis.” Like the counter-argument, the rebuttal needs to be a reasoned, developed point of discussion—but one that argues against the counter-argument rather than for the paper’s thesis. Including it demonstrates both command of the ongoing conversation about the topic and reasoned divergence from already-existing opinion.
As a note, counter-arguments and rebuttals are generally easier to develop from others’ sources. Incorporation of secondary or tertiary/critical materials in them will likely be desirable.
The FinPap will need to offer more support for its thesis than does the Expl. Some of the added support will likely come from the deployment of materials treated in the AnnBib; the secondary and (optional) tertiary/critical pieces included in the AnnBib were each to be selected for inclusion in part because of their utility to the argument to be made, so not using them wastes the effort expended in finding them. Some, however, will likely need to be newly developed for the extended project. While it is true that some excellent ideas only require a small amount of explication, they are rare—and they will still benefit from having more support, rather than less.
The preceding items can be regarded as comprising a sequence of prewriting; that is, they lead towards deliverables, but they do not themselves generate them. The deliverable towards which they lead is the FinPap itself.
The FinPap will benefit from opening with a paragraph that identifies the topic, offers context for the argument to come, and advances a thesis to undergird the argument. (An essay map is helpful but not obligatory.) It should follow with a presentation of counter-argument and rebuttal before moving into a series of body paragraphs that develop a number of argumentative points in support of the thesis. The supporting body paragraphs should be laid out in an order reflecting either the sequence of evidence within the topic of discussion or the rhetorical emphasis of the points being made. Afterwards should come a conclusion that moves beyond simple recapitulation of the thesis and argumentative points towards what readers can do armed with the validated thesis.
The FinPap must be submitted through Schreiner One before the beginning of class time on 7 December 2016. It will be assessed according to the rubric below, its score recorded as a major assignment worth 20% of the total course grade. When it is submitted, it should be as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file consisting of 2,600 to 3,250 words, exclusive of heading (student name, instructor name, course/section, and date of composition), title, and any necessary end-citations. It should be typed in black, double-spaced, 12-point Garamond, Georgia, or Times New Roman font on letter-sized pages; the heading should be flush left, the title centered horizontally, and the body flush left with the first lines of paragraphs indented one-half inch from the left margin. Page numbers should be in the margin at the top of the page on the right margin, preceded by the writer’s surname, and in the same typeface as the rest of the paper. In-text and end citations should conform to the current standards promulgated by the Modern Language Association of America.
The FinPap may well be used as a writing sample, a publication or presentation, or an impetus for later work, so sincere, diligent work on it will be of benefit. Consultation with the instructor throughout its composition is strongly recommended.
The grading rubric that will be applied to the FinPap can be found here: ENGL/THRE 3333 FinPap Grading Rubric- Corrected.
The FinPap will require use of primary and secondary source materials; it is likely to deploy tertiary/critical source materials, as well. All such must be attested in accord with the current standards of the Modern Language Association of America. Failure to offer such attestation may be investigated as an academic integrity violation, with substantially adverse consequences for students.
The Expl is specifically framed as a preliminary version of the FinPap. As such, much of the text from the Expl will appear in the FinPap; as it is an earlier version of the same paper, it need not be formally attested.
Examples of the kind of writing requested for the FinPap are widely available. The pages of published conference proceedings abound with them. A sample of a similar paper is available on the course website, as well, although its topics and requirements will be somewhat different than that for the present assignment:
- “Sample Student’s Own Question/Researched Paper—Why Not Have a Rhetoric Requirement among UL Lafayette PhD Students in English”
Another example, targeted at the present assignment, has been drafted and posted to the course website:
Geoffrey B. Elliott
8 December 2016
Updated to include corrected rubric.