TOPIC: Mrs. Dalloway: Themes and Stream of Consciousness
Final Paper Proposal + Literature Review
In order to help you get started on your final research papers, I would be asking each student to
submit a 1-2pp. final paper proposal along with a 2-3pp. literature review . In an ideal world,
these pieces of writing will ultimately constitute the first two sections of your final research
project (as you will see if you look at the optional Research Paper Worksheet posted in the
section of the Course Documents titled “Writing Guides and Sample Essays.”) The purpose of
this assignment is therefore to get you started on your research papers, as well as to provide you
with some initial feedback on your ideas and on your writing.
Guidelines for Final Paper Proposals
Your final paper proposal should consist of 1-2 paragraphs, and it should provide an overview of
your intended research project. As such, your proposal should demonstrate that you have a
well-defined topic that is worth investigating and a strong and interesting question or set of
questions motivating your research. It should communicate what you plan to accomplish, why
this is important (what’s at stake?) and how you are going to do it.
Your proposal should contain:
1. A succinct but detailed description of your object of study —the specific
text(s), literary theme(s), historical moment, theoretical idea, etc., on which you have
chosen to focus. What is your paper on? What’s its topic?
2. A clear research question . A research question is the germ of a thesis or
argument. It can be an outright question. Or it can be a hypothesis, a statement open to
change and revision. Your research question should tell the reader: What are you trying
to find out, and why is that important?
3. A preliminary thesis . The central pillar of any good paper, the thesis is the
argument that you will be developing over the course of the essay. A good thesis should
be debatable (i.e., it should be a claim that you will need to prove via an extended
analysis of one or more literary texts), and it should be an original idea that would not do
immediately obvious to someone reading your chosen text(s) for the first time. (I call this
a “preliminary” thesis because your argument will probably change a bit as you write the
essay. We think as we write, and our ideas tend to become more refined as we continued
to work on a project.)
Guidelines for Literature Review
A literature review is an important step in the writing process: it is where you begin to take the
research that you have done and evaluate it. As such, a literature review is less of a
source-by-source summary of what you have found, and more of a holistic overview of the
research that has been performed on a given topic. Your goal is to try and draw some broad
conclusions about what scholars have said about a particular topic, as well as to think about how
your essay will contribute to this scholarly discussion around this topic. What are the major
debates that are present in your chosen field? Is there a general consensus about certain aspects
of your topic? And how would you position your own ideas with respect to these debates and
In order to get at these issues, I will be asking you to perform two related tasks in this
assignment. After having identified at least four secondary sources that you plan to use in your
final research paper, you should:
1) survey the scholarly conversation (the “literature”) around your topic or field of
inquiry (~1-2 pages),
2) identify how your own paper will constitute an original contribution to this
conversation (~1 page).
In the “survey” section of these reviews, you should consider a number of things. How does
each of these authors demonstrate his or her argument using evidence? What commonalities do
these sources share , and where they are in disagreement with each other? Do all scholars of your
topic focus on a particular set of issues, returning over and over again to the same set of
questions? Are the scholars whose work you have read divided on a central issue—is there a
debate that rages in your particular field of inquiry?
At the end of your literature review, you should then include a substantial paragraph or two on
how your own paper will constitute a contribution to the critical conversation surveyed in the
body of the literature review. How do you plan to intervene in this critical conversation and on
why your intervention is original and important . How is your research different from what has
come before? Are you synthesizing diverse materials that no one else has put together yet? Are
you disagreeing with a dominant viewpoint? Or are you filling a “gap” in the existing research?
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