Click here to access the Grading Rubric for the Research Paper


Assignment Overview:


The final research paper is the culmination of all your written work throughout the semester. It is an opportunity for you to exhibit your close reading skills and your familiarity and engagement with scholarly sources. For this paper, you will respond to a prompt about Orlando and argue your position for 6-8 pages. The paper will be organized with a thesis statement, supporting points, and evidence. Throughout the writing process, I will collect and respond to portions of the assignment, such as outlines and drafts, and you will engage in two class days of peer review and group workshops. The aim of the paper is to showcase the skills for summary, critical reading, and formal analysis that you’ve developed over the past couple of months.


Close Reading:


Like your first close reading paper at the beginning of the semester, this paper also requires careful attention to language. Throughout your argument, you will have to refer to evidence from the text itself by quoting phrases, sentences and passages that support each of your claims. When close reading the text, remember to follow the three steps: (1) identify the context and literal meaning of the quote; (2) discuss figurative language; (3) connect your analysis to a theme. During the writing stage, remember to always blend quotes between your claim and your commentary so that your ideas flow.


As you prepare your outlines and drafts, feel free to re-purpose the work from your homework, annotation papers, or class conversations into your argument. These exercises are intended to spark your ideas and give you material for the research paper. You are NOT permitted to copy and paste entire annotation papers (or paragraphs) into your research paper. Rather, you can repurpose and revise that material for your research paper.


Secondary Sources:


Besides close reading the primary text, this paper also requires you consult secondary sources written by scholars in academic publications. You will need at least one source for this paper, which could be chosen from the articles we read in class, or from your own research. If you decide to do your own research, come speak with me about your plan.


In addressing secondary sources, you will need to summarize the author’s main argument or smaller points relevant to your argument. In other words, do not just drop in quotes without context. The outlining and summary exercises have introduced you to the act of summarizing, which is always necessary before responding with your own ideas. If you have trouble incorporating a secondary source to support your paper, find something in the source to argue against—that is, find something in your source that you disagree with, and use your own evidence and analysis to back up your disagreement. Sometimes it is easier to complicate an existing argument by showing nuance and grey areas.




In well-organized papers, all of the components are present. A basic outline has a Thesis, supporting points (or paragraphs), with Claim, Evidence, Analysis for each point. To make sure that all the necessary parts are there, you will create an outline before drafting. This outline will identify an overarching argument (your thesis) and lay out each of your points. You should begin each paragraph with a topic sentence that previews your upcoming point and close it in a way that moves your argument forward and/or links back to the thesis.




The schedule is intended to minimize procrastination in the drafting process.


  • Mon, 4.16 – paper proposal due (in class)
  • Thurs, 4.19 – paper outline due (in class AND submitted digitally via the Commons)
  • Mon, 4.30 – first draft due (5 pages typed copy in class AND submitted digitally via the Commons)
  • Thurs, 5.10 – second draft due (5 pages typed, hard copy in class)
  • Mon, 5.14 – final draft due (submitted digitally via the Commons)


Prompts and Thesis


The following prompts are to get you started. Begin with a “working thesis” that you modify as you work. As you outline, draft, and analyze quotes, you will develop your argument toward a specific and debatable thesis statement.

  1. Explore the genre of biography in Orlando. How does the narrator approach her task as a biographer? What is the relation between biography and writing? Consider the narrator’s commentary about the proper roles of truth, evidence, imagination, or language, and how these shape the presentation of Orlando’s character and story.
  2. How does the novel approach gender? Consider how biology, clothing, desire, or social practices in the novel construct or critique gender roles. You could also explore the connections between gender, biography, and/or language. If you want to move your conversation beyond Orlando, you may also refer to Sasha, Harry, or Shel as examples of gender conformity or subversion.
  3. How does time or nature function in the novel? Think back to important scenes in Orlando’s life, from her youth in the Elizabethan age, her transformative experiences in Turkey, and her new life as an Englishwoman in London society during the Enlightenment, Victorian, and Modern eras. How does time pass during these crucial scenes? What about the setting (or nature) seems important? You might also consider the beginning section of each chapter, which usually has important clues about how these elements work during the time period and setting in that chapter.


Submit your Final Research Paper here: