Checklist for Final Research Paper
1. Is your paper in proper MLA format? Set margins at one inch, double-space all lines, place heading in upper left corner of the first page (no cover sheet is necessary), center title, identify in-text citations accordingly, and provide a works cited page that is separate from the body of your paper. For a good visual on this, see pp. 370-377 in Hacker, and pp. 1796-1801 in Charters.
2. Do you have a title for your paper? You always want to title your work. Unless you include the actual title from a story, poem, novel, etc. in your title, you do not need to italicize, underline, or use quotation marks for your title.
3. Do you have a clearly defined thesis, and do you state it early in your paper (preferably at the close of your opening paragraph)? You want your thesis to be as clear, direct, and narrow as possible. For example, \”Edgar Allan Poe\’s life influenced his work\” is okay, but it is too general. What aspect of Poe\’s life is the focus of the paper? What particular aspect of his work reflects the experiences of his life under discussion in the paper? A clearly defined thesis will help direct not only the reader but also you the writer as you draft the paper: if you know the exact direction of the paper, you will know, exactly, what primary and secondary source material to include.
4. If you are taking a biographical approach to your study of a particular writer\’s works, have you included relevant biographical information about the writer? This information should be no longer than 1-2 pages in total length. Although I recommend that you include this information following your opening paragraph and before you actually begin discussing the primary sources, you can also incorporate the material throughout your paper as you develop your discussions of the writer\’s works.
5. Have you properly cited all direct quotations and paraphrased language? For direct quotations, you need to attribute the source and place quotation marks around the original language. For paraphrased material, you do not need quotation marks because you are changing the original language and syntax (order in which the words are arranged); however, you still need to attribute the source. Identify the source in either a signal phrase in your own sentence (e.g., \”According to Stan Williams, Poe believed . . .\”) or in your parenthetical citation (Williams 34). Note that you do not need a \”p.\” to identify the page number of the source, nor do you need a comma between the author\’s name and the page number. For more on this, be sure to review the class handout on plagiarism.
6. Have you clearly explained the significance of all direct quotations? This is one of your sentences (usually following the quotation itself) that often begins with such language as \”This suggests,\” \”This shows,\” \”This supports,\” etc. In other words, you want to clearly tell the reader how the quote that you are using is directly significant to your thesis.
7. For direct quotations, have you smoothly blended the original language with your own language? Aim to make the direct quotation part of your sentence; do not drop the quotation into your paper (this is called a freestanding quote). For further details on integrating (or blending) direct quotes, please see pp. 334-338 in Hacker; see also the student paper examples in Hacker (pp. 370-377) and Charters (pp. 1796-1801).
8. Have you limited direct quotations to 25% max of the total text of your paper?
9. Is at least 70% of your paper devoted to a discussion of the primary sources (stories, poems, etc.)? This will be especially relevant to those of you taking a biographical approach. Do not fall into the temptation to include too much bio material on your writer.
10. Are you actually discussing the primary sources yourself? Yes, you want to bring in secondary sources to help support your thesis, but you do not want to have these secondary sources discuss the primary sources for you. Avoid turning your paper into a collection of comments from critics on your writer and his or her work. This is your paper; you want your secondary sources to support your ideas, not overwhelm them.
11. Have you included a minimum of six (6) secondary sources in your paper? Remember, these are sources that you actually cite in your paper. If you cite a source in your paper, you must list it on your works cited page; if you list a source on your works cited page, you must actually cite it in your paper. Secondary sources provide either biographical information about the writer or critical interpretations about the writer\’s work (the primary sources).
12. Have you correctly listed all sources in proper MLA format on a separate works cited page? For information on listing sources on a works cited page, see pp. 348-368 in Hacker. A companion site for our Hacker handbook is www.dianahacker.com/writersref . You can also go to www.mohave.edu and click the following sequence to access online information regarding MLA guidelines: Library Services, Search the Library, Resources on the Internet, Citation/Style Guides, and, finally, either one of the two links (either the Purdue University site or the Bedford/St. Martin??ÃƒÂ¯Ã‚Â¿Ã‚Â½s site) relevant to MLA.
13. Have you proofread your paper for obvious mistakes in spelling and grammar?
14. Is your paper at least 2000 words in length? For a comparative page count, your paper should be at least 7-8 pages in length (for size 12 font). Be aware that this does not include the works cited page.
15. Submit your completed paper by the required due date.