Research Essay- Engl 385

For your course research essay,  you will write about The Lost World or The White Company. This is an open topic essay, which means you determine what novel you wish to write about and what your topic/focus will be.  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 use two secondary sources for this essay.  (You can use additional sources if you wish.) They will help you clarify your thinking as well as contextualize your essay within the literary criticism about Conan Doyle's works. 

See Online Research Guide--Website Home Page & the books in our English 385: Conan Doyle Course Reserve Collection--library

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 novels and secondary sources.

You should also be sure your topic will work within the scope of the essay.

Length: 5-7 pages
Documenation style: MLA
Sources:  Minimum two secondary sources: 1. journal article, and 2. essay from a collection or a book chapter from a critical study or from a Conan Doyle biography.  (Check the Course Reserve Collection.) You cannot use websites for your two sources but can use one for an extra source.  Consider information you need to support your argument. Primary sources are the novels themselves.  Your works cited page, which is required for this essay, will include primary and secondary sources. 


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.  Again, see

Sources might focus on
***novels you are writing about
***Conan Doyle's life
***19th century/Victorian history and culture, e.g., marriage, gender, games and sports, medievalism, philosophy, science
***14th century medieval history and culture

See Online Research Guide on course website homepage (footer)

Once you chose your novel, begin by (re)reading, notetaking, and thinking about the novel you are writing about.

Formulate a topic and then a research question. Ex.: game playing in The Lost World.  Research question(s):  What types of games or contests are referenced in The Lost World? Who plays games or contests? What is the role of game playing in the novel?  The answers to these questions will help you craft your thesis and direct your research.  Your research will focus on studies about the novel.  If your sources don't mention game playing in this specific novel, then you might look for an article or book about play, games, or sports in the Victorian period.

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 15-20 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 (5pts) with your final essay, either handwritten or typed, the same format as for essay one.  Use the handout given to you for essay 1 for formatting.  Turn in the actual outline(s) you use--and revise--throughout the writing process. This outline should reflect your final essay.


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 that is part of an ongoing life experience.]


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 (8th 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 (8th 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:  Posted on the syllabus (blue box).