LITR 5831 World / Multicultural Literature

Research Options:

Research Posts

Model Assignments


Research Posts (2 installments + review in final exam)

1st Research Post due 11 October (or before)

2nd Research Post due 15 November (or before)

Assignment: Research and write two “adventures / experiments in research.”

  • These exercises must be relevant to our subject matter but also reflect your personal and professional interests.

  • Content & Organization: Posts are reports, not essays. They should be interesting and readable, but they are not analyses of literary texts. Rather, they are explanations of your research findings in a subject area of interest.

  • Relate your research to Literature, even if only by reviewing the texts you consult, but content options include history, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, etc.

  • Your topic may grow from a course text or author, a Web Review, a term or theory mentioned in the course objectives, or another student's presentation, or relevant material from other courses or personal reading.

  • Your second post may resume the same content as your first posting, so that your two posts relate to, build on, or vary each other--or they may be distinct subjects.

  • The only absolute stipulation for content is that the subject must have something to do with colonial or postcolonial literature, history, or theory.
  • If you choose Research Posts for your Research Plan, your final exam will summarize and assess these research experiments as part of your overall learning experience.

  • Most typical mistake: Students will want to write a personal analysis of texts we're studying or might study. That approach is an essay, not a report. Some primary research may be involved, but the report requires secondary research.

Length: at least 4 paragraphs, plus or minus bibliographic information

Bibliographic requirements and information: At least 4 sources, at least some of which should be from reputable scholarship and not just stray internet postings. MLA style is expected. Information may be included in text or more completely in listings at end of posting.

Bibliographic information may be included in paragraphs or more completely in listings at end of posting.

Posting to webpage: Email contents to instructor at Instructor will post to webpage and email notification of posting with a brief reaction. This may be all the feedback the student will receive until final grade report. (See “grading” below.)

Organization, Content, etc.:

Provide a title for your entry that will serve as a web heading or link. This title should indicate the content. The title may take the form of a question.

1st paragraph: Introduce and frame a question you want to answer or a topic you want to know more about.

  • Explain the source or background of your interest; what you already knew on the subject, how or where you learned it or were alerted to it, etc.
  • These backgrounds can be personal as well as educational or professional.
  • At some point in this introductory paragraph, a statement of the question you’re trying to answer should appear.

2nd and 3rd paragraphs: Describe your search for answers to your question or topic.

  • Identify, locate, describe, and evaluate at least two sources.
  • Your sources may be print, Web, or personal (interview, lecture, conversation, or anecdote).
  • If Web, provide links.
  • If print, provide bibliographic information. (MLA style is preferred, but the main point of all documentation is to enable your reader to find the source.)
  • If “personal,” provide as much contextual information as possible; welcome to protect privacy.

4th paragraph: What is the answer to your question?

  • Your “answer” may take a variety of forms, as long as you demonstrate learning.
  • You may find a definite answer to your specific question.
  • Or you may learn that you’ve asked the wrong question, in which case you could conclude by revising your question.
  • Summarize and evaluate what you have learned.
  • Consider what your next step might be if you continued your research along this line.

These paragraph descriptions are only guidelines, not absolute rules.

You may write more than 4 paragraphs, but more than 6 or 7 paragraphs may push the assignment too far.

Grading schedule: Grades for research postings are not returned until the Final Grade Report.

Instead of a grade and extended review for your first post, on receipt of your submission I will send a brief email summarizing my overall impression of your submission + suggestions for next moves.

Your two research posts together receive a single grade, which appears in your Final Grade Report because your final exam will reference one or both of your Research Posts.

This description may sound tricky, and some students will like their grade outcomes better than others, but in several semesters of such assignments I've had no direct complaints--only questions, which you're welcome to ask.

Grading standards: Research Post grades are based on readability, interest, quality of research, and learning.

  • Readability: quality of reading and writing distinguishes excellence and competence in Literature courses--not just covering course materials but organizing extended analyses into compelling essays. Competence in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and clarity are taken for granted. Given time pressures, occasional careless errors won't break your grade, but chronic errors must be factored. Thematic unity, continuity, and transitions are essential.
  • Interest: Not whether I would have chosen the topic, but how well the report generates and sustains interest. A personal angle is welcome for starters, but develop for wider appeal.
  • Quality of research: Use what you've learned about academic research. Consult with Neumann Library's reference librarians. But also take some chances--interview, review a relevant film, magazine, or commercial site. Scholars in Literature and Humanities combine work and pleasure--honoring what they must do but redeeming what they want to do.
  • Learning: The most consistently redeeming quality in all research is the sense that the author (and at least potentially the audience) has learned something valuable. Emphasize what you wanted to know and why + how your research advanced or changed your knowledge and understanding.

Additional examples from other courses:

Research Posts 2008 (American Immigrant Literature)

Research Posts 2006 (American Immigrant Literature)

Possible topics

The quickest, surest way to get a sense of possible topics is to review our seminar's Model Assignments to see what previous students chose as subjects. You may develop a previously-chosen topic, and you may use earlier research posts or projects as research sources.

Some generic topics:

  • An author associated with colonial or postcolonial literature
  • A defining historical event or movement relevant to colonial or postcolonial history
  • Other artistic, literary, or cultural movements associated with colonial-postcolonial experience
  • Secondary critical research concerning a work, author, or issue related to our subject. (You would find several critical articles or books relevant to your interest, then summarize what you gained or learned from reviewing them.)
  • Past student work for the course, or theses concerning colonial or postcolonial texts:

Above all, remember your topics can change and are almost expected to do so in light of your research. The point is to find the most interesting and applicable data and share the sense of adventure and discovery with your reader.

Also remember that, if your first research post feels daunting or beyond your abilities, you can switch to a research paper or a research journal by discussing the change with the instructor.