Outline Assignment

The next stage in your term paper or lesson plan is the outline assignment.  For term paper people, this will be an actual outline; for lesson plan people, it will be a critical introduction.  Either way, the key thing to remember is that your next assignment must reflect your reading of secondary sources on your play.

Critical Introduction:  Those of you doing lesson plans will produce a synthesis of criticism or a review of criticism relevant to your project.  In normal cases, it should suffice to read the sources on your bibliographies; however, I noted that many of them are thin on actual literary criticism.  If that is the case, you ought to do further bibliographic work (e.g., look at the lists of sources in the appendix of Bevington's anthology).  Once you have read your sources, begin to organize information on major themes, characters, currents, controversies, etc.  Then write up the information according to MLA format (parenthetical references, list of works cited).  I expect a product that is at least 12 full pages.  Organize your introduction by topics, not by sources.  A critical introduction in this class deals with three subject areas related to your play, plus a section on pedagogy. Each topic/section should deal with at least 3 critical sources. Be sure to submit your introduction to turnitin.com.

Outline Assignment:  Those of you doing term papers must now weave together the (by now) upgraded conceptual framework of your analysis paper, your bibliography, and your reading of secondary sources; the resulting outline will be your full researched draft writ small.  Here are some things to remember:

Here is a model to follow.  As ought to be obvious, be sure to use a ragged right margin and Courier New 12-point.


Joe Shmoe

Outline Assignment

English 305

Dr. Fike

                                           Give Your Paper a Title

Thesis:  You will put your newly revised thesis statement at the head of your

document.  Remember to double space everything.

I. Major points should receive upper case Roman numerals and should appear

   as far to the left as your computer will allow you to put them.

        A.  Subpoints receive capital letters.

        B.  Please remember that if you have a I, you must also have a II. 

                1.  If you have an A, you must also have a B.

                2.  If you have a 1, you must also have a 2, and so forth.

                         a.  Of course, having an "a" means that you must also have

                              a "b."

                         b.  See what I mean?  Outlines observe a principle of


II.  And then you give another main point at the left margin.

        A.  The farther to the left an item appears, the more general it

              will be.

        B.  The farther to the right a point appears, the more specific it

              will be.

        C.  Thus areas of white space on your outline provide a key

              to understanding the relationships between assertions

              related to the thesis (topic sentences) and information

              that supports those assertions.

III.  Furthermore, the outline assignment gives you an opportunity to

       organize your argument before you cast it in a full draft, which

       is the next assignment coming down the pike.

        A.  You will be able to see the relationships among ideas

              more easily.

        B.  You should also be able to notice if parts of the outline

              are out of place.

        C.  In short, the outline assignment enables you to show me

              your project at a stage when problems are highly fixable.

        D.  I strongly encourage you to take the fullest possible

              advantage of this opportunity to further your thinking and

              to get my feedback.

IV.  Finally, when you guys use sources, be sure to use

       parenthetical citations.

        A.  These might look like the following:

                1.  "To be or not to be" (Hamlet 3.1.57).

                2.  Russ McDonald states that "the Ghost speaks a

                     sentence that may reflect Shakespeare's training in

                     Latin" (41).

        B.  And, again, if you have an A, make sure that you have a B.

        C. After you conclude your outline, give a list of all works

             cited therein.  This will be a subset of your bibliography

             minus the annotations.


Feedback on Shakespeare Outlines (Spring 2012)

Grades: 4.5 and 5 mean that your project is virtually ready to take to the draft stage. A 4 indicates that you’ve done solid but not flawless work; adjustment and/or further research may be necessary before you write the draft. A 3.5 indicates that your paper is significantly problematic; you must come see me and/or visit the Writing Center. A 3 means that your project is in serious trouble and that you need to get help right away.


Doing the assignment: It is very important to do an outline. Four of you blew off the assignment. For those folks and for at least half of you who did do the assignment, a conference is definitely in order.


Title and focused topic: Your project must have a title at this point. It should include the paper’s focused topic. Regarding focus: You must say more about less rather than less about more. See Writing Analytically (on reserve at the library for CRTW 201): do “10 on 1” rather than “1 on 10.”


Research: Many of you need to do further research before you can attempt to write your drafts. Note that if, say, you are writing your paper from a Jungian point of view, you had better cite Jungian critics. If I have told you to read and incorporate the work of a particular critic or critics, you had better do so.


Thesis statements: Many of you need to look at your current thesis statement and ask, “So what?” (Do not accuse me of being rude in saying this; the question is straight out of Writing Analytically!) The answer to that question will be a more successful thesis than what you currently have. Remember: Your objective is not only to explain what something is or does but also to offer an interpretation on that basis.


Criticism: Your paper should express an answer to the following question: “Why is this paper needed?” In other words, “How does it fill a gap in the scholarship?” Or “How is my ‘take’ different from others’?” The answer needs to come in the introduction or at the beginning of the body. You need to push against or talk back to or write in dialogue with your critics. Such a strategy will enable you to use them but not be used by them. Also try to avoid relying too heavily on one critic or patching together an argument from multiple critics. Remember: If you overuse critics, the paper will read like a book report.


MLA format: Your use of the MLA format is still problematic. First, some of you are still misusing the slash mark. Put a space on either side of the slash mark. Second, get my help on your WC lists. One error that repeats over and over again is incorrect use of cross-referencing. Third, be sure to cite at least five sources on your play. Remember that five is the minimum.


E-mail on Outlines (Fall 2013)

Dear Shakespeare Students:

We’re now at the point in the semester when most students START their research projects. Given that fact, you’re not in bad shape—everyone has been at least marginally working on the term project for ten weeks now.

The outlines, though, suggest to me that various types of work need to be done before you can attempt a full researched draft. Since we don’t have time on Tuesday to go over both the exam and the outline, I’m sending this message to deal with the latter.

A huge problem is that SEVEN of you—one person short of a THIRD of the class—didn’t do the assignment. It’s the crucial assignment for getting the paper right, and a whole bunch of you won’t get the benefit of my feedback. That omission defeats the purpose of doing the project in stages.

Many of you who did turn in an outline need to rethink its organization. I have, in such cases, made specific suggestions about how the outline should flow. You may want to make an appointment to come see me about your work in progress. This is the point in the semester when a conference can be most useful.

Some of you need to do more research. If that is the case, I’ve told you in my marginal comments.

Note that there were various problems with the sources that you did use:

·        Your outline was a patchwork of critics’ views. You let them take over and do the heavy lifting, or you considered the outline to be a book report on what others have said about your focused topic.

·        You neglected to have a review of previous criticism early in the paper.

·        You used sources but did not have at least five critical sources (pieces of Shakespeare criticism).

·        You LISTED sources but did not cite any of them in the outline. It wasn’t a RESEARCHED outline.

·        You included critical quotations in a block late in the paper where they don’t belong. You just stuck them in but didn’t give them any genuine thought.

·        The sources you included were not in sync with the paper’s focused topic.

Sadly, I noted that many of you are still misusing the slash mark, not doing citations correctly, and improperly recording your sources on the works cited list. I must insist that you learn how to do all of these things. I can understand an error here and there on a WC list; I cannot, at this stage, understand a WC list that is full or errors.

Another lower-order matter is the header on page 1: Make sure that it is double spaced. MS Word inserts an extra half line when you hit the enter key. Highlight the header, click the line spacing icon + remove space. That will take care of the problem here and on many of your WC lists.

In conclusion, I have concerns not only about those of you who skipped the outline (have a go at it) but also about many of you who did the assignment (have another go at it). But we have five weeks left in the semester; that is plenty of time to get your projects on track. I encourage you to take my writing process seriously and really concentrate on getting the outline right.

Dr. Fike


E-mail on Outlines (Spring 2014)

Dear Shakespeare Students:

I got the outlines done and will hand them back on Monday at the end of class. However, since we do not have time to go over them, I’ll type up my remarks and share them in this e-mail.

Almost everyone did an outline. If you did not, I strongly advise you to do an one before you attempt the draft.

Those who did do an outline: Most of you need to do another draft of the outline because of the sort of issues I penciled in the margins. (I ended up commenting much more extensively than I’d intended.)

Here are some of the problems that I encountered.

Plot summary: Not necessary.

Saying less about more material: You should instead say more about less material.

Research: You have to cite at least 5 critical sources (works of criticism on your play) in your paper. That is the minimum. Some of you need to do further research. Some of the WC lists had only 2-3 critical sources. Here’s another problem: You have to have sources that relate to the approach that you’re taking. For example, if you are doing a Jungian paper and you didn’t bother to ferret out any of the Jungian Shakespeare books, you’d better go do that.

Writing two papers at the same time: Some of the papers contained the seeds of two separate papers. If your outline falls into this category, you need to pick one and develop it. Cut the other. Write one paper, not two.

Information vs. argument: An information-centered paper is insufficient. You must use information to argue for a controversial thesis. It can even say, “I will use [my focused topic] to argue that” some controversial idea is the case. Your paper must be argument-centered.

Focused topic vs. thesis: A thesis does not state the focused topic (the narrow thing you’ll write about); it offers a controversial idea about that focused topic. Example:

·        Focused topic: The fact that Hamlet hesitates.

·        Thesis: I will argue that Hamlet’s hesitation is due to Freud’s Oedipus Complex.

Review of criticism: I want everybody’s paper to have a mini-review of criticism at the start of the body. It could be in the introduction instead, but it needs to be in one of these places. Generally, I prefer the start of the body. It’s an important feature because giving a sense of what others have said will help you identify an issue that you can argue about. Think of it this way: Give a review of previous criticism. Then PUSH OFF from it in your own thesis-driven direction.

MSND people: This is a lot of you. Many of you need to look at Kevin Pask’s book, The Fairy Way of Writing. We have one copy in the library, and it’s not on reserve. If you check it out, use the listserv to let others know that you have it. I want you to share this resource. Pask’s chapter on MSND and his bibliography are the most important parts of the book. If you want to, you can even use the scanner at the library to send these parts to the whole class: engl305001@class.winthrop.edu.

Come see me: I wrote “see me” and “see me asap” on a lot of the outlines. I also indicated that, if you come to see me in my office, I can help you find Jung quotations that will help some of you. It’s advising week, so figuring out a time will be difficult. Plus my HMXPers have papers due this week, and a bunch of them want last-minute help. But I’ll try to fit you in at a time that’s convenient for both of us.

Works cited lists: OMG. No one had a perfect WC list, alas. There were many errors in some of the WC lists. Most of you are ENGL majors, and my class offers a great opportunity to learn how to do MLA format. So here are some things to keep in mind:

·        A WC list is one continuous list. It was okay on the bibliography to use sections. They don’t belong in a MLA WC list. Delete them.

·        Call the list “Works Cited” (without the quotation marks). Do not call it a bibliography.

·        Double space everything. If you computer inserts extra space, highlight the page, click the line spacing icon, and click “remove space.” That should fix it.

·        Italicize play titles and book titles. If a book title includes a play title, don’t italicize the play title. For example: Critical Essays on Hamlet.

·        Some of you also had problems with capitalization, the format for a journal article, page numbers (235-37, not 235-237; give inclusive #s here, not just the page from which you borrowed info—that’s for the citations in the text), databases (italicize them), and lots of other details (see my markings).

·        Cross referencing: If you have, for example, two plays from Bevington’s anthology, you don’t have to give all the bibliographical information for the book in each entry. Do an entry for the anthology with Bevington, David M., editor in the author position. Then do separate abbreviated entries for the plays. For example: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. Bevington, pp. 800-80. Then you’d have: ---. Othello: The Moor of Venice. Bevington, pp. 900-50.

·        Don’t list what you don’t cite. A few of you gave me outlines that had no critical material in them but listed a bunch of sources. You outlined your analysis paper and tacked on items from your bibliography. You were instead supposed to read your sources and integrate quotations from at least 5 of them into your outline.

 Okay, that’s enough for now. See you in class.

 Dr. Fike