you will  come up with a formal, research paper on a Theater History 1 play and an original topic of your choice. There are a number of important guidelines below. Broadly speaking, though, the topic, the play, and the type of research you bring into the project are up to you


The project:  For this assignment, you will  come up with a formal, research paper on a Theater History 1 play and an original topic of your choice. There are a number of important guidelines below. Broadly speaking, though, the topic, the play, and the type of research you bring into the project are up to you. So, take some time to find a topic that interests you, something you want to learn about, think about, and write about. Maybe find something that connects meaningfully with your broader studies. Whatever you do, don’t pick a boring topic!

Length: The paper must be a minimum of 5 written pages (1250 words), not including the required Works Cited page. This is a bare minimum. The minimum required length of your essay is whatever is necessary to argue your chosen thesis persuasively. So, be conscientious about the scope of your argument and certainly don’t stop writing at 5 pages if it’s not there yet. There’s no maximum length.

Thesis-driven, persuasive essay: The paper must be a persuasivethesis-driven essay focused on a narrow topic. Make sure to read the attached article “The Persuasive Essay“,[1] if this kind of academic writing is unfamiliar to you.

In your paper you will take an obvious position which is:

  • Articulated clearly in your thesis paragraph(s) at the beginning of the paper
  • Supported by your cited research and close reading of one or more of the texts covered this semester
  • Summarized/re-stated persuasively, along with your supporting evidence,  in your concluding paragraph(s) at the end of your paper.

Your thesis should be strong enough that it demands to be supported with argumentation, textual analysis based on close reading, and research. It should also be narrow enough in focus that you can fully support it within the span of an essay as short as this. If you choose to write a 5-page essay, it would be a costly blunder to choose a thesis that needs a lot more (or a lot fewer) than 5 pages to support persuasively. Outlines, where you plan-out your argument step-by-step, paragraph by paragraph, reference by reference, are extremely useful in making sure you’re neither over- nor under-shooting your intended mark.

Supporting your argument: You will support your argument in two primary ways: (1) a close reading of your chosen play(s) or theory text, and (2) research:

  • Close reading of your chosen play/theory text: The first way you will offer evidence in support of your thesis is to undertake a close reading of your chosen play or theory text (s).  For basic guidance on close reading, look at the attached “Drama Close Reading”. You won’t be analyzing the entire text, of course, but rather the specific passages that speak directly to the point you’re making.[3] You can do a sustained analysis of a particularly rich passage, or you can make a dozen references to instances of a particular image or theme. One way or the other, you need to analyze and interpret the passages you use, and you should be direct in explaining how they support the point you’re trying to make in the paper.
  • Research:  You paper needs to show the results of real, substantive, outside research. There is a wealth of articles available online when you access them through the Rutgers Libraries, but depending on your chosen topic, articles may or may not be the most appropriate resource. Between downloading useful journal articles and an afternoon at the library standing at the copy machine with a stack of books, you should have more than enough material. If you have less than 5 sources listed in your Works Cited, you have not done enough research.

It is just as useful to do research before you’ve selected your topic, as it is to do research focused on your topic afterwards. The best way is to do both. And in case it needs to be said–whatever articles or online content you reference (be very cautious about using the latter, by the way), it must be from a reputable, peer-reviewed, academic publication. Wikipedia,, CliffNotes etc. are not appropriate sources for this kind of paper.  As a rule of thumb, if you’re in the position where you need to ask about whether a particular source is from a reputable academic publication, in all likelihood you should just find a better source, especially given that it tends to be pretty obvious in most situations. Just keep things simple, and use the library and the library website for your research. And if you’re new to all this, a brief chat with a librarian can make a world of difference. They will very likely be happy to help you.

Writing: The essays will be graded for all writing errors (grammar, syntax, logic/argument structure, essay structure, paragraph structure, easily avoidable citation mistakes, etc.). I’m not going to deduct points for every typo or something like that. Even so, there should be no typos. I’ll also mention that minimum page limit on this essay is low specifically to allow time for revisions, proofreading, etc. The papers are short, but you should take them seriously. They should be tight, clean, and purposive academic essays. Definitely spend a sufficient amount of time with the writing guide I’m distributing with the paper guidelines.

Citation method:  MLA style, including Works Cited page. (For anyone who prefers, or has an interest in learning the Chicago Manual Style, you’re free to use that format instead of MLA. Chicago is widely used in theater studies and humanities research in general. The most obvious difference between Chicago and MLA is that Chicago uses endnotes instead of parenthetical citations within the body of the paper.) If you’re not familiar with either the MLA or Chicago methods of citation,

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