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Required Books
S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders (1967; Speak/Penguin, 2012)
Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak (Square Fish, 20th anniversary ed., 2019)
Angie Thomas, The Hate You Give (HarperCollins, 2017)
Jason Reynolds and Brendon Kiely, All American Boys (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2015)
Erika L. Sanchez, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Knopf Books for Young Readers,
2017)
Matt Mendez, Barely Missing Everything (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2019)
Samira Ahmed, Internment (Little, Brown, 2019)
A.S. King, Ask the Passengers (Little, Brown, 2012)
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (BFYR/Simon &
Schuster, 2012)
Writing Tasks: You are being asked to write an academic essay on one or more works of literature.
Academic essays have a certain shape to them and depend, in any academic discipline and any academic
genre, on three key elements: a strong thesis or argument, a clear organization, and solid evidence for
that thesis that is clearly presented and thoroughly analyzed in relation to the thesis. Here is a standard
way of writing such a paper:
In the introductory paragraph you must provide:
A general introduction to the specific topic you are writing about this is not an introduction to the
text itself but to the topic in the text[s]). You must assume that your readers have already read the
text(s), which means that you should not give a plot summary. Be sure to focus on the topic, not on
how you found it and decided to write about it. This is a paper about the topic, not about the process
by which you discovered the topic.
A narrowing from the topic itself to the specific approach you intend to take on the topic. What do
your readers need to know before they can understand your thesis statement?
Your thesis (argument). The thesis statement is one coherent sentence that states the central
argument of the paper in a way that shows why that argument is important to your overall reading of
the text(s). If you do not condense your reading of the chosen text(s) into one concise sentence, you
have no thesis statement. Do not give three main points with your thesis; let them appear paragraph
by paragraph as your argument unfolds. Build to your later arguments and conclusion; don’t give
away your whole argument at the beginning by stating your main points. It’s like saying “I’m going
to tell you a mystery story about the death of Christopher Marlowe. His best friends killed him. Now
I will tell you how it happened. NO! Even with an academic argument, build to your conclusion step
by step.
See my sample at the end of these instructions for a good introductory paragraph.
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.
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In each of your body paragraphs, you must provide:
A transition word, phrase, or sentence that introduces a key point from the text(s) that will be the
subject of that paragraph. (Remember, paragraphs must flow from one idea to the next, and
organization is the only way of preserving that flow.) Make each topic sentence a brief introduction
to a different aspect of the main argument. This transition word, phrase, or sentence should be at the
beginning of the paragraph on that topic, not at the end of the previous paragraph.
A textual proof (almost always a short quotation) that best illustrates a key point that you mentioned
in the transition sentence. (Any paragraph that does not contain a proof is merely paraphrase or
summary and not an analytical treatment.) Use at least one key piece of evidence from your text(s) in
every single body paragraph. (You may use additional pieces of evidence as well.)
Analytical discussion that links the textual evidence that you have provided with the overall thesis
that you have delineated in the introductory paragraph. After each quotation you must
Explain what is being said in the quotation that links it to your overall thesis. (Don’t just
summarize it. What is being said at a deeper level in relation to the text and your argument?)
Address what the author of the text is doing with the quotation, what he or she hopes to
accomplish with the evidence provided by the quoted passage.
• Illustrate how the quotation fits in with/proves your thesis as stated in the opening paragraph of
the paper
As you write each paragraph, think about your audience. An academic audience in any field will be
convinced only by logical arguments and analysis of specific evidence. Assume an audience that
knows the text(s) you are talking about but needs to be convinced that what you are saying about the
text(s) is a good way of understanding something about the text(s). You must convince a skeptical
reader, but a skeptical reader who is willing to accept a new understanding of the text(s) if your
.
evidence and analysis are sound. You do not have to get your reader to agree with your reading of the
text(s), only to agree that it is a possible reading based on the text(s).
In your conclusion:
Do not, under any circumstances, repeat the argument that you presented in the body of your paper!
Instead….
Posit a new reading or understanding of the topic in light of the argument that you’ve just provided.
Ask “How should the reader of your text now view the text(s) based on your argument on the issue
you have been discussing?”
Rules to remember:
• Be sure your paper has a heading including your name, the course, and the date. See the sample in
MLA format on the last page of these instructions.
Also be sure your paper has a title that tells something about the topic. “Paper 1” is not a title! The
Kite Runner is the title of the book. It says nothing new about your paper. “The Character of Amir in
The Kite Runner” does say something about your paper.
Your paper is to be doublespaced throughout, from heading to works cited page, including long
quotations. See the sample at the end of this document.
Watch the word count, because I do. The word count does not include the heading, the title, or the
Works Cited list. It only includes the body of the paper. I am a stickler for the proper minimum word
count because anything less than that tells me that you have not sufficiently developed your
argument. You are always welcome to write more than the maximum word count to develop your
argument.
MLA format and citation (or some other standard format and citation) apply-make sure you
introduce each quotation and provide the appropriate citation for that quotation or idea. Failure to cite
properly will result in a lowered grade. (Lack of a necessary citation is of course much worse than
getting the format wrong.) Your paper must have a Works Cited list or Bibliography even if you
are citing only the original literary text(s). See a sample MLA first page and Works Cited page on
the last page of these instructions.
Spell-check and proofread your paper before you submit it! Errors will damage your overall grade, so
please take the extra time to make certain that your prose is polished!
Stay away from “l” statements and general phrases (e.g., “in society today,” “in conclusion.” “’ since
the beginning of time”)they mean nothing.
Do not shift your discussion away from the text(s) that you’ve chosen. You should never, in an
analytical assignment, discuss “society” or your personal experiences (including how you came to
choose the topic or how you feel about the text[s]). Stay rooted in the text(s)! Discussions of
“society” and your personal experiences are relevant only as they provide specific support for your
thesis and do not distract from your discussion of the text(s) you are writing about.
Saying “I will argue/show” in your introduction is not a real thesis statement. You must nail down
the argument of your paper about your text(s), not generalize about what you hope to establish in your
paper. (That is a strong point for many academic readers, including the original author of these
instructions, who studies medieval literature. However, from my own reading of scholarly articles in
English Renaissance literature, I know that very often critics and scholars do exactly that. But it is
almost always done at key points of defining what the paper will do.)
Remember your academic audience. Do not use slang or profanity in your papers! (The exception, of
course, is when you are quoting such language from your source text(s).)
The assignment for your Final Course Paper is different. This paper serves as the General Education
Program Assessment for Literature and Diversity. It is designed to meet the three rubric elements of the
Literature assessment and the three rubric elements of the Diversity assessment. (The actual learning
outcome and rubric elements are on p. 10 of the course syllabus.)
The specific assignment for this paper is to write a reflection of 1750-2000 words, approximately 5-6
pages of text (not including your header, title, or works cited list – see the last page of these instructions).
Your paper must include these three elements (based on the General Education Diversity Assessment
rubric requirements):
1. Cultural Identity: Include a discussion of your deepened understanding of your own cultural identity
and how it relates to the larger context of your culture and/or American cultures on a more general
level (which is where our focus on “current issues” may apply). Your cultural identity can include
gender, ethnicity, national origin, faith, disability, status, age, and/or class. Those are the ones listed
in the rubric. Another possibility from our reading is mental health, and I’m sure there are others.
You certainly to not need to cover all of these or even many of them. Focus your discussion.
2. Cultural Awareness. Show an understanding of how specific cultural views of the world are
constructed (through history and through personal experience) and how those views are important in
establishing cultural products such as specific literary works. I assume that your focus here will be on
one or more of the books we have read, but the rubric itself includes other examples which you might
think of focusing on: “historical documents, artistic productions, values, politics, communication
styles, language, economy, belief, practice, rules[,) and biases. One possibility would be to look at
family structures and dynamics from a cultural perspective. There are lots of possibilities, but the
requirement is simply that you talk about the construction and importance of specific cultural views
as they appear on one or more of the novels we have read. Don’t try to cover too much. Dig into one
or at most two novels. To simplify, this section asks you to show that the specific cultural views exist
and how one or more of them is important in the novel or novels you are discussing. Don’t try to
cover too much. Remember that there is a list of cultural issues in item #1.
3. Cultural Interaction: Finally, include a discussion of how different specific views of the world lead to
different interpretations and assertions within and between specific cultures and the importance of
these different interpretations and assertions lead to structural issues that emerge within the cultural
identity and interaction issues within and between the cultures. Again, focus on how this happens in
one or two of the novels we have read. Your focus might be on one “group” of two novels from the
same culture or two novels from two different cultures. Again, remember that there is a list of
cultural issues in item #1.
Please note that when I suggest you focus on one or two novels, you might want to focus on different
novels in item #2 and #3. You don’t need to refer to any novels in item #1, although you may choose to.
You may
write your paper in three separate sections, or you may merge all three sections into one
discussion.

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