Research Essay- Engl 385

The course research essay you will write this semester is an opportunity for you to explore Arthur Conan Doyle's work in detail.  This is an open topic essay, which means you determine what work(s) you wish to write about and what your focus will be. In addition to the stories and novels, you can also write about the Sherlock Holmes adaptations we screen.  For example, you might compare and contrast a Sherlock Holmes story or stories with a television or movie adaptation.  (You cannot write your essay just on the adaptations.) You can formulate your own topic or focus on a topic from our class discussions. You should not, however, just summarize or repeat class discussions. Also, you will want to use secondary sources for this essay.  They will help you clarify your thinking as well as contextualize your essay within the literary criticism about Conan Doyle's works.

Remember that for a literary analysis your are making an argument (your thesis) about how to read/interpret a work or works of literature.  This means your claim (thesis) needs to be debatable, specific, and supported--your reasons/examples and quotations from the works/secondary sources.

You should also be sure your topic will work within the scope of the essay. Be careful if you plan to write on more than one work.

Length: 8-10 pages
Documenation style: MLA
Sources:  There is no formula for secondary sources, but use a minimum of 4-5 secondary sources as a guide.  Consider information you need to support your argument and how much of a source you are using. Primary sources - the stories and adaptations - do not count as secondary sources.  Also, although you may use the critical introduction to your Penguin edition as a source, it does not count as one of your secondary sources.

Throughout the semester, I may ask you to bring to class/turn in your outline, parts of your draft, and research materials.


Most likely sources will be journal articles, book chapters, and websites.  Use the library databases to search for journal articles (e.g., JSTOR, MLA International Bibliography).  Books can be found in our library or through universal borrowing.  Some websites maybe helpful. See our course website: Resources menu----British Literature Links ("Victorian Literature").  Note:  I will add some websites as I find them.  Ask librarians for help if you cannot find the information you need.  Remember, for sources, consider credibility.

Sources will focus on
***stories and/or adaptations you are writing about
***Conan Doyle's life
***19th century/Victorian history and culture, e.g., marriage, gender, crime, philosophy, science

You should not use more than two websites for your sources.

Once you chose your work(s) and topic, begin by r(re)reading, notetaking, and thinking about the work(s) you are writing about. Formulate a main question your essay will answer. Study your chosen work and line up your evidence. Draft a working thesis and then an outline that gives you a view of the entire essay - structure and content. You might also try freewriting as an invention strategy:  Write out the name of your work and topic and then write nonstop for 20-30 mins--everything about the topic that comes to mind without worrying about structure or grammar. Analyze this freewriting for key ideas. Then proceed to your working thesis and outline.  **You will need to turn in your outline with your final essay, either handwritten or typed.  Turn in the actual outline(s) you use throughout the writing process.  Also, turn in the 3 x 5 card you received from your partner during our outline review in class.


Assume readers, who are students taking a 200- or 300-level English literature course, have a basic (not complete) knowledge of the work's plot. (Is there some need for plot summary?) What will this audience expect to learn from your essay? What will be their reason for reading it?  How will readers understand your secondary sources? Keep these questions in mind as your draft and revise. Also, consider where your essay might be published--an academic journal?  Use the journal articles you find as guides for writing.


Begin your essay by naming the work your are writing about. Frame the issue you are exploring or ask a key question(s) that you will address. You might also briefly contextualize the work you are writing about within the author's other works. Then state your thesis--the main point, conclusion, or claim you are making about your chosen work(s).


(Thesis is in brackets)

Title: Marriage as an Experience in Eliot's Middlemarch

Intro: After reading Middlemarch, one's thoughts focus on the novel's two central marriages. Since both marriages result in unhappiness, it appears as though George Eliot views marriage as a confinement or a source of self-inflicted pain. This interpretation results from taking a narrow view of the novel and not considering its entire scope. [Through its central marriages, Middlemarch reveals the growth or loss which results from marriage. Marriage is not an end, but a beginning, a single fragment of human experience resulting in a fruitful relationship or an unfortunate loss.]


After you have formulated a thesis, find the best evidence you can to support it. Do not organize your essay around "the plot"; organize it around the central idea you are presenting (in your thesis). Select the best examples to illustrate your ideas. You should use a few/some direct quotations--let the work speak for itself and present readers with emphatic or telling examples that would lose their impact if paraphrased. Be careful if you use block quotations (make use of ellipses) and do not use too many quotations. Remember, quotations are not a substitute for your own thinking. You must interpret them for readers. Quotations supplement your thinking.  For prose, fiction, and drama, use page numbers; for poetry cite line numbers.  See the MLA Handbook (7th ed.) for the mechanics of quoting. Copies are in the library.

For citing dialogue from a movie, you do not need parenthetical citations if it is clear you are citing from the movie since there are no page numbers.  If you are citing the movie plus other sources in the same paragraph, then use parenthetical citations--for the movie, cite the title to match the works cited page.

In your essay, you might reference other works yau have studied this semester to make apposite comparisons.

You will need a work cited page.  Again, consult the MLA Handbook (7th ed.) as needed.


Feel free to see me if you have any questions. I'll also be glad to look at outlines/drafts as you write them.

The essay's due date is on the syllabus.