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Writing a Literary Research Paper Proposal

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Please help me get started on how to write a proposal given the instructions below.

The proposal is one statement, a sentence, that states the story and author you've chosen, PLUS the theme AND literary element you plan to use to explore that theme, that is, include a theme or themes and a fictional element (or elements) you plan to explore and write about.

Recall that themes are not topics or subjects (such as loss or identity), but rather the author's statement about that topic (such as the devastating effects of a loss at a young age or the effects of a strict conventional society on a character's identity).

Fictional elements may include any of the literary elements in your book and that you took a quiz on (and these below may be further researched in other sources.) You have a whole chapter on the elements of fiction in your textbook and very good questions to ask of the one you choose in the "Writing about Short Stories" chapter in your book. Answering these questions for your chosen story will help you generate material for writing.

Elements include character (do they change and how?), setting, plot (an analysis of the conflicts), formal structure (exposition, complications, crisis, climax and resolution), point of view, style (diction, sentence structure), tone (irony, the different types--verbal, situational, dramatic) and symbol.

Therefore, your proposal might read as follows:

Through her use of setting in "The House on Mango Street," Sandra Cisneros shows the effects of place on a young girl's mental growth.

Shirley Jackson manipulates the formal structure--specifically the exposition, complications and climax-- of "The Lottery" to create the shocking ending.

That's it, one statement. The proposal should reflect your main goal. If your thesis changes a bit as you actually write the paper, that's fine, but please let me know about any drastic changes, such as a different element or theme altogether.

The proposal should include the title and author of the short story on which you plan to write your essay and a specific direction or thesis you plan to explore. You will inevitably write about a theme, but decide also HOW you plan to explore that theme: through character (their words and actions, other characters' words, the narrator's words), setting, tone (including irony and the different types) point of view, style, symbol? (Read the appendices in Charters for help with this and the whole process).

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Solution Summary

Direction for writing a proposal statement for a literary reserach paper. Three example statements provided for three varied works as models.

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To create a response to this statement, you must first choose the novel, short story or reading that is NOT contained in your course syllabus. Since you did not include what WAS contained on the syllabus, my suggestions may use examples that you did cover in class, and if those are not acceptable, you will have to model your response using a selection that you have not covered, but which you, yourself, have actually read, know and can comment upon.

Once the story has been chosen, you must consider what the main themes of the work are; what did the author want to communicate to the readers, and then you must consider the literary tools or devices that they used in order to effectively communicate those themes. Often, those devices will pinpoint the direction ...

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  • MED, University of Georgia
  • EDd (IP), Northcentral University
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