Checklist for Final Paper

As you move toward the finish line for your paper, here’s a handy-dandy checklist to make sure that you’ve hit on the points we’ve discussed in class.  As a reminder: all drafts, final version, and presentation worth 50% of the overall grade.  Due to my calendar error, your paper is due Monday, April 22 @ midnight!  (And don’t forget, if you get desperate: as per the syllabus, everyone is entitled to one extension if you need it.  It requires that you negotiate that extension with me at least 24 hours in advance, however, so think ahead.)

Nuts and Bolts

  • 17-25 pages
  • 12-25 relevant sources (relevant=special attention to the important and oft-mentioned authors/theorists and critical sources in the field/scholarly conversation; depending upon your topic and chosen text(s), some of these—probably no more than 1/4—may be reviews or less-formal critical or scholarly secondary sources.)
  • MLA style internal citations and bibilography, to the extent that these are provided in the latest MLA guide.


  • A clearly articulated argument that identifies a specific approach to the text and defines its terms. It should also tell us something new, whether that be a surprising reading of a classic text or cultural phenomenon, or the first interpretation of a neglected work or idea.
  • An explanation of why your argument matters, and to whom.  (One way to get there is to ask the question: what’s at stake in your argument?  What would it change if people agreed with you? What new avenues of research or intellectual engagement would it open up for others to pursue?)
  • A detailed description of at least one critical conversation that you’re entering (a synthesis of the five most important scholars discussing the evolution of narrative; three competing views of episodic television, etc.), and a specific discussion of what you intend to add to that conversation.
  • Close, attentive work with primary and secondary sources.  I expect to see you using close readings of the primary sources to support your argument, and quoting or paraphrasing the secondary sources as well.   You might want to refer back to the models of of secondary source integration that we discussed in class.


  • A consciously-chosen and articulated approach that leads your reader, in linear fashion, through the various components of your argument.
  • Each segment of your argument should have a clear relationship to the ones that precede it, and to the argument as a whole.

[Suggestions: The following can be useful cognitive tools for organizing your paper, and examples of all of these can be found in the secondary sources we’ve read for class.]

  • Chapters or segments.
  • Footnotes.
  • “signpost” language.  For example: “If, as I described above, x is true, then what I will explain next…”; “To review: x, y, and z are important parts of the frame that I’m constructing for this novel.  My own reading, then, will make use of these specific components…”; “At the beginning of this paper, I discussed x; I want to return to that here in order to…”
  • captions for screenshots


In other words, a stellar final project will possess:

  • a clear, original thesis that contributes a compelling idea to an existing critical conversation
  • a thorough synthesis of the scholars, writers and thinkers who contribute to that conversation
  • a variety of original interpretive work, grounded in specific passages or scenes from the primary text(s)
  • a variety of references to relevant secondary work
  • a logic and design that allows the reader to follow your train of thought and see the ways in which your are aligning your analyses of primary and secondary sources to support your argument.
  • a cogent and readable style that coheres to standard grammatical and syntactical conventions

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