Research essay

This is an example of a research assignment for an English class. The professor has provided information on the types of research required and on resources that are available. She asks questions that require knowledge that can't be found in the play itself and which also calls for specific knowledge which a student isn't expected to "just know". The research is therefore necessary in order to fully answer the questions asked.

English 201 - Research Project
A Raisin in the Sun
Bring photocopies and notes Thursday, May 18
Essay due: Thursday, May 25

What is a research essay as opposed to the kind of essay we've been writing already? In the essays we've worked on, the object is to respond to a question about a specific play or poem. The response is based on understanding and analysis of the play. In effect the essay is between you and the author. In a research paper we look outside ourselves and the author and instead of just reading the text we find other works and sources that help in interpreting the original work. The sources may be literary criticism, biographical information, historical materials, other poems/plays/novels etc. by the author or related authors that aid in understanding and analyzing the text. It is the next step - going further. Now we can read and respond to the text and by looking outside of ourselves for even more knowledge we deepen our own.

For this project I want you to find at least three other sources of material that will aid you in answering the questions.

Suggested sources:

  • reviews
  • essays
  • articles
  • television sources
  • literary critiques
  • biographical materials
  • historical materials
  • other forms of literature
Be inventive - find other sources too.

The Essay Questions:

1. Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun is a work of historical as well as contemporary significance. Discuss this work in the contexts of her time and our own.

2. "I had finished a play; a play I had no reason to think or not to think would ever be done; a play that I was sure no one would quite understand." Discuss Hansberry's play in conjunction with one or more reviews and/or critiques of her work. Was she understood by the critics?

You must cite at least three different sources in your essay, including at least one review or critique of the play from the fifties/sixties.

Whichever of the questions you choose, find your sources before you start to write your essay.

Use the quotation and paraphrasing rules, and remember to footnote.

Include photocopies of the sources with your essay - staple them behind the essay.

The two questions are quite different from each other. One requires the student to gain knowledge of a specific historical period and society and then to think about the play in relation to that. The other question asks for the student to consider critical responses to the play and to decide if the critics understood the play the way Hansberry wanted them to. This requires the student to find critical writing about A Raisin in the Sun and to analyze it. The research will enable the student to form an opinion which can then be expressed. Part of the goal of a research essay is to find information and to put it to use! What you find combined with what YOU think, form a partnership that is unique. A research assignment is an opportunity for you to create something wholly different than anyone else can, and perhaps to form opinions or to put together pieces of information that have never been united before. Research can be really rewarding!