General Essay Guidelines: MLA paper
- Each essay must include an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs which develop the thesis statement, and a concluding paragraph which summarizes the arguments presented in the body paragraphs.
- ALL essays in this course must be persuasive. That is, you will present your argument supporting one side of a controversial issue in a work (or works) which we have read in the course.
- Topic is:
- Ursula K. LeGuin shows us in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omeals” how selfish society can really be and just how far people are willing to go to keep their happiness even at the expense of another.
- 750 words minimum, but closer to 1,000 is better. It is difficult to develop a good essay in less than 1,000 words.
- The paper is a literary analysis, so it is arguing what is going on in a work. It is not simply a cultural discussion. It is also NOT a researched paper, so you will not include quotes from outside sources though you may certainly look at outside sources to give you ideas.
- I DO check for plagiarism and have given zeroes on essays for plagiarism. Do NOT add yourself to this infamous list.
- You MUST include quotes from the source (i.e. the work you are discussing) to support your points. A good rule of thumb is to use a minimum of two quotes per body paragraph.
- Include a Works Cited page at the end of the essay.
- When you are quoting from only one work, include only page numbers in the parenthetical citations within the text. If, however, you are discussing two or more different texts, you will need to include both author’s last name and page number in the parenthetical citations to differentiate from which source you are quoting. You might use two texts if, for example, you wanted to discuss the role of women during a specific time period, an aspect of local color, the symbolism of water, etc., in different works.
- Be sure to read the General Essay Guidelines before you begin writing. These guidelines discuss your thesis statement, topic sentences, use of quotations, and so forth within the essay.
The introduction MUST include the following:
- the name of the work(s) you will be discussing
- the author of the work
- the main points that you will develop in the body
- a thesis statement which presents an argument which has two possible sides
Example:Although Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn might seem superficially similar, the reader quickly realizes that Huck is actually far more mature and caring because of the abuse Huck has received throughout his childhood.
The introductory paragraph should NOT
- state â€œThis paper will contrast X and Yâ€
- state â€œI will look at why Oedipus could be considered blindâ€
- begin â€œThis story is about . . . â€œ
- have a thesis statement that states a fact, such as â€œHuck and Tom have many similarities and many differences.â€
- include direct quotations
- have a thesis statement that asks a question
- Each body paragraph should each begin with a topic sentence that is related to the thesis statement and which indicates the point the entire paragraph will be developing.
Example: Tom and Huckâ€s differing attitudes toward the plans they devise indicate their fundamentally different views of life.
- The body paragraphs MUST contain direct quotes integrated into your own sentences that support the topic sentence. Introduce each quote before it is used. Then explain how the quote supports the point you are making.
Example: Because Huck has had to survive almost on his own, he has become a master of ingenuity. For example, when his father almost kills him during a drunken fit, Huck quickly concocts a plan to escape and cleverly makes it look as if he has been murdered. He â€œpull[s] out some of [his] hair, and bloodie[s] the axe good, and [slings] the axe in the cornerâ€ to make it look as if a robber has killed him (Twain 287). This quick thinking works beautifully even though the plan doesnâ€t have the silly and unnecessary frills that one of Tomâ€s would have.
- Every statement and every example within the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
- End each body paragraph with a concluding sentence that sums up your argument and proof presented in that paragraph.
Punctuation of Quotes:
- If you introduce a complete sentence quote with a complete sentence, use a COLON (not a comma) to connect the introduction with the quote.
- At the end of each quote, place a parenthetical citation which includes the last name of the author and the page number where the quote is found. See the example above.
- Closing punctuation (periods and commas) fall AFTER the parenthetical citation, not inside the closing quotation marks.
- You should include transitions (bridges between different topics) both between paragraphs and within paragraphs when you begin a new point.
Example: Huckâ€s and Tomâ€s differing purposes in concocting plans parallel their differing views of the importance of following societyâ€s dictates. Huck does what he has to survive no matter what society says is right, while Tom only plays at being a robber or freeing a slave.
The concluding paragraph should sum up all the major points in your essay and restate the argument from your thesis statement. Do not include quotes in the conclusion. It should NOT include any new points that you have not mentioned in the body of the paper. It also should not begin â€œIn conclusionâ€ or â€œTo conclude.â€
Conventions of Literary Analysis:
- Use PRESENT TENSE to discuss literature.
- Use third person (one or the reader) instead of first person (I or we). You are presenting an argued analysis, not a personal opinion paper.
- Follow MLA guidelines to cite the quotations you use and to prepare your Works Cited page. You can find a summary of these guidelines in your Composition I grammar book and your Composition II literature book, or you can purchase the MLA Handbook: Seventh Edition which gives you complete information.
- Good grammar and mechanics are still required even if they arenâ€t being taught in the class. Teachers assume that once you have completed Composition I, you understand the conventions of the English language and will use standard English in your compositions. If you are still having problems with grammar, you should visit the Writing Lab for help and review those problem areas in a grammar textbook.
- Above all, remember that essays about literature have a point! You are trying to prove something (something you will constantly direct the readerâ€s attention to), not simply throwing facts on a page. Donâ€t assume that your reader will make the connections if you give him the information. Clearly state the connections, the points that you are trying to prove and how your quotes prove them, throughout the paper.
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