Irish 226:  Final Paper Assignment

Length: Approximately 10 double-spaced typed pages

Due Wednesday, April 30, 2008 via email by 11:59 pm



You may choose to do this paper on any works of your choosing, so long as they are by Irish authors.  This paper should present your own in-depth interpretation of a particular thematic or technical aspect of the work(s) you choose.  You may focus on one particular feature of one work or you may present your own in-depth study of a theme or technique as it is used in two or more of the works we've read.  For example, you might analyze the role a particular image or symbol plays in the work(s) you've picked.  You might choose to examine the intersection of history, politics, and literature in one or more of the works we've read.


Whatever you decide to do, remember that this essay is argumentative.  That is to say, you'll need to convince the reader that the topic you're presenting is significant and that it works the way you say it does.  How convincing you are depends on how well you use the material at your disposal.  That material should be drawn primarily from the work you've chosen, but you must also consult at least three secondary research sources; no more than half of your research sources should be from online sources, and if you use internet research, it is your responsibility to make sure the sources are reputable, academic sources (see below) .  You must be careful, however, to use your research to support your own point; avoid simply reporting what other researchers have said.


This paper should be mainly an interpretive paper; it is not a review or summary of criticism on a work.  Use material from any secondary resources you select to support your interpretation or to raise additional critical issues.  I urge you to write a rough draft or outline of your argument before you begin to read any criticism.


Prewriting:  Before you write a first draft, you should reread the work carefully, with an eye towards investigating, supporting, and thinking through your topic.  You may well find points that relate to your topic that you haven't discovered before.  Take notes as you reread, carefully noting page numbers for references you wish to come back to.  If you extract a quotation to use in your essay, write it down carefully, word-for-word and punctuation mark-by-punctuation mark.  If you find you are collecting too many examples as support for your thesis, select the strongest examples only for use in your essay.


Evaluation:  I will judge your performance by how well you do what your thesis states as a goal for your paper.  Writing style and organization count as well as content, so be sure to begin with a thorough outline and to leave yourself time to revise your draft(s) and to proofread your final draft carefully.  I have found that many students have trouble incorporating source material into their own writing and that this often results in the confusion of the student's own good ideas in a jumble of unattributed, unexplained quotations.  PLEASE come and check with me if you are unsure of how to handle your reference sources as you work them into your paper.


You should follow your direct quotations with the appropriate page number from the text in parentheses.  The final page of your paper should be a "Works Cited" page in proper MLA format.  Remember, quotations longer than four lines should be presented in single-spaced blocks indented in the text. (For a sample essay in MLA format, please see


Research Sources:  RESEARCH SHOULD NOT BE THE PRIMARY FOCUS OF THIS PAPER! Instead, your research should supplement and deepen your own analysis of the text(s). Bertrand Library has a strong collection of books and periodicals that deal with Irish literature.  You may also wish to make use of "Article Finder" and other useful electronic databases available from the ISR homepage (  Remember, you do not need to do extensive research for this essay; three supplementary sources will be sufficient as a minimum.


Note: Be careful using online sources! While some internet sources are authoritative and reliable, others are not. Internet sources must be listed in your "Works Cited" with a working URL or I will not consider them valid sources. You may not use or cite,, or other non-academic resources in your research. You must list web page URLs in your "Works Cited" section so that the addresses work. If I check a web reference in your "Works Cited" section and it does not work, your grade will be affected.