Instructions for the Research Paper

Possible thesis questions for the 101 Research Paper focusing on Tolstoi’s The Death of Ivan Ilych:

How does the author use techniques of characterization (e.g. action, physical description, thoughts, dialogue, other characters’ comments, setting, narrator’s comments) to reveal the inner truth of the protagonist or antagonist (select one)?

How does the author use setting in the story to create an atmosphere/mood, foreshadow later events, cause action, and reveal the internal life of the central character? What theme emerges from this approach to the story?

How does symbolism function to communicate theme in the story?

What are the thematic functions of structure (exposition, catalyst, rising action, climax/turning point, falling action, resolution) in the story?

What is the symbolic power of colors, objects, setting(s) and people in the story?

If you have a particular angle you would like to approach that differs significantly from the above, just let me know and we’ll work on this together.

Begin with your thesis question (as above). Develop a sentence outline in which you answer the question using textual support to add to the evidence. Think of the research paper as being composed of three essays (each 3 to 5 paragraphs) plus an introduction and conclusion. Thus, for your outline, try to come up with three answers to the question (thus I, II and III of your outline), and support each answer with your own reasoning and support from the text.

looking for five to seven (minimum) sources (books, journal articles, reference guides) from which you can pull quotes to add further support to your outline.

Whenever you quote from a secondary source, include within parentheses after the quote the last name and the page number of each source. Important: Avoid Wikipedia, Schmoop and other unreliable sources (which will be disallowed once you transfer to the university/state college). Stay focused on reliable, authoritative sources.

Begin by consulting the web site devoted to your author. This is maintained by experts in your area and will offer links to many helpful sources.

Be sure to follow MLA formatting guidelines throughout.

Critical Approaches to Literature

Reader-Response Criticism: This approach takes as a fundamental tenet that “literature” exists not as an artifact upon a printed page but as a transaction between the physical text and the mind of a reader. It attempts “to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while interpreting a text” and reflects that reading, like writing, is a creative process. According to readerresponse critics, literary texts do not “contain” a meaning; meanings derive only from the act of individual readings. Hence, two different readers may derive completely different interpretations of the same literary text; likewise, a reader who re-reads a work years later may find the work shockingly different. Reader-response criticism, then, emphasizes how “religious, cultural, and social values affect readings; it also overlaps with gender criticism in exploring how men and women read the same text with different assumptions.” Though this approach rejects the notion that a single “correct” reading exists for a literary work, it does not consider all readings permissible: “Each text creates limits to its possible interpretations.”

To that from my conversation with the professor: After carefully reading through “The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Confession” I’ve decided to present my own criticism thoughts and reasoning behind this story I’ve chosen the Reader-Response Criticism approach. From this approach I will present my own perspective as I highlight details that I believe were important and how I understood the material and from this I will present the dissected text and how meaning is draw from in my understanding. We all perceive things different and from this I hope to express my vantage point in regards to another perspective of meaning as I convey the fruits of my research to you. From this research I will present the story you the reader through a new lens and I will shed other voices from my research, comparing and contrasting the views of the novel through a different light as you understand how I as the reader present my meaning to this story. <– as form of reference but subject to change.

Any questions or concerns please contact me I will respond as soon as possible I will review the research paper thoroughly so I’ll let you know if everything looks good, this professor is a really tough grader. I’m currently working on another essay for this class but this is the final project for this class


Previous Essay paper format for comparison: Suggested structure for the essay (following the classical model):

     Opening paragraph (about 100-150 words):

     Hook to catch the reader’s attention, discussion of why your approach is important, and three-part thesis statement.

     Three body paragraphs (each about 250 words minimum): Each topic sentence corresponding to one part of the thesis statement along with discussion to prove your claim and supported by textual evidence as well as sound reasoning, concluding with a sentence that ties the paragraph together.

     Concluding paragraph (about 100-150 words): Re-statement of your thesis, answer the the question, “So what?” (that is, now that you have proven your case, why should we as readers care?), and recommendations to the reader (what might the reader do with what you have proven?).

Here is a link to an excellent audio version:

Here is a link to the full text of Leo Tolstoi’s The Death of Ivan Ilych:

Again any question please feel free to notify me.

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