Basic Method: The MLA Style Manual (New York: Modern Language Association, 1985, pp. 5-6).
Current usage blurs the sharp distinction that was once observed between "scholarly," or factually based, articles, and "critical," or theoretically based articles. Either type requires the scholar to demonstrate familiarity with the previous scholarship on the topic, suggest an original thesis, present supporting evidence, and point to the significance of the proposition advanced. The best scholarly articles incorporate all four aspects in a proportion appropriate to the subject and audience. Failure to cover each adequately is probably the most frequent reason that journals reject articles for publication.
To demonstrate familiarity with the previous scholarship on a topic, the scholar must, of course, be sure to acquire that familiarity. Identifying the relevant scholarship is usually easier for factual articles that for theoretical articles. After locating the pertinent materials, the scholar assimilates them and relates them to the new thesis. The clearer the connections between the two, the more cogent the article. Long paragraphs – or even pages – that do little more than list previous scholarship usually reveal that the author has not adequately assimilated it.
The thesis in a scholarly article should be significant – not a refutation of another scholar's minor thesis or a trivial application of a tired theory to a work of literature. The statement of the thesis should have a prominent place in the article, and the wording should be as lucid and concise as possible. Theses that resist clear and concise statements often have flaws and need rethinking.
After stating the thesis, the scholar should present the supporting evidence. It is often wise to begin by reviewing the categories of evidence for each aspect of the thesis, thus giving the reader a sense of what will follow, and then take up each category of evidence seriatim, making certain that the evidence is both valid and relevant to the thesis. Once all the evidence has been presented, it usually helps – except in very brief articles – to summarize the ways in which the evidence supports the thesis.
Scholars often neglect the final part of the scholarly article – the significance of the thesis; yet it is this feature that ultimately recommends the article to the reader. The author should devote as much effort to considering and expressing the significance of the thesis as to supporting it, even though the concluding section may occupy only the final paragraph or two of the article.
• Cite all sources.
• Use a format that is appropriate for articles in the humanities, such as the MLA
• Use the library "citing sources" page
or the Purdue OWL
site for guidance
Choosing a Topic:
• The paper must be about 19th century Russian literature
• The paper must entail additional reading
• You may read another work or works by an author we have read.
• You may write about an author we have not read.
• If you write about a book we have read you must do significant reading of secondary sources. You must review some secondary literature regardless of the topic
• You may do a comparison of a Russian author with another Russian author or with a non Russian author
• You may trace an image, motif, theme, or allegory within a work
• You may apply a theory or critical approach to a work
Where to find sources
• Coates Library stacks
• Other online databases