LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Grammar Post: Introductions and Conclusions


The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:

  1. What is this?
  2. Why am I reading it?
  3. What do you want me to do?

For a paper less than 5 pages, it should be a paragraph.  For a paper between 5-10 pages, it can be as long as the first page.  For an even longer paper, an introduction can be a couple of pages, and will often have its own section heading.

In a good introduction, you should answer these three questions by doing the following:

  1. Set the context – provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the questions you will ask
  2. State why the main idea is important – tell the reader why s/he should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and educational essay people will want to read and act upon
  3. State your research goals – compose a sentence or two that clearly communicate what you want you hope to discover, why you are interested in the topic, or where your idea for the essay came from.   You might also include an overview of the types of sources you explored, the methods of research you engaged in, or particular sources you found inspiring.

Some Basic Guidelines Read the rest of this entry »

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Grammar Post: Shitty First Drafts

I am hoping that at this point, you all are working on (at least) your first draft of your papers.  We have addressed some of the frustrations about writing in earlier posts, so for this week, I am going to post instead one of my favorite pieces of writing by Anne LaMott titled “Shitty First Drafts” from her book on writing, Bird by Bird.  I think there is something reassuring about knowing that even people who write for a living, and who have been writing for decades, still feel anxiety and frustration while they are writing.  Whenever I get really stuck or frustrated with my own writing, I find re-reading this brief excerpt really helps.


Shitty First Drafts

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MLA Formatting Help: Links

A couple of quick links to help you all with your MLA formatting for your final papers.

Purdue OWL

A sample paper (For those students who asked about how to incorporate images/illustrations into their paper, this sample paper shows how to add illustrations via an appendix)

A sample work cited

Basic rules for setting up a Work Cited Page


Frequently asked questions about MLA format

Finally, a list of formatting elements that you should double-check when you set up your document and again when you proofread your document:

Word Processor Formatting:


Everything is double spaced

 Space between paragraphs is normal (Paragraph -> Spacing between paragraphs -> After = 0)

 1 inch margins

 Left justified (not fully justified, which makes the spacing look strange)

 Font: Times New Roman, 12 point

Header: last name and page number in right corner (not in body of text)

 Heading includes full name, date, professor’s name, and class/section

 Title follows heading, centered. (no separate title page required)

 All paragraphs indented 1/2 inch (Standard tab, usually done automatically)

 Save document as .doc, .docx  or .PDF for submission

 File name has last name in it


 All quotes, paraphrases and summaries have an in-text citation with author name and page number. Author’s name can appear in the text or in parenthetical citation.

 All quotes appear in quotation marks,

 All quotes longer than 4 lines appear as indented block quotes

 All quotes/paraphrases are from sources that appear in the work cited page

Works cited page

 Begins on a new page (insert page break)

 Title: Works Cited appears in center of first line

 Double space

 All entries should be in alphabetical order

 All entries have hanging indent (all but first line is indented 1/2 inch)

 Titles of books, magazines, websites and other large works are italicized

 Titles of articles, web pages, and other short works are appear in quotes

 If author has more than one entry in your Works Cited, list entries in alphabetical order by title. Use 3 hyphens in place of the author’s name for second and subsequent entries.

 All sources that appear in the work cited list should appear in your paper

Visuals/Charts (if using)

 All visual elements are fully interated into the text

 All visuals/charts are clearly labeled (i.e. Figure 1) and labels are used in text to refer to image being discussed.

 All visual elements are appropriately cited in the Work Cited page

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Grammar Post: Medium of Publication

After reading your annotated bibliographies, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss the fairly new MLA requirement of listing the medium of publication for each source.

According to the Purdue OWL site, you need the following information when citing electronic sources:

Basic Style for Citations of Electronic Sources (Including Online Databases)

Here are some common features you should try and find before citing electronic sources in MLA style. Not every Web page will provide all of the following information. However, collect as much of the following information as possible both for your citations and for your research notes:

  • Author and/or editor names (if available)
  • Article name in quotation marks (if applicable)
  • Title of the Website, project, or book in italics. (Remember that some Print publications have Web publications with slightly different names. They may, for example, include the additional information or otherwise modified information, like domain names [e.g. .com or .net].)
  • Any version numbers available, including revisions, posting dates, volumes, or issue numbers.
  • Publisher information, including the publisher name and publishing date.
  • Take note of any page numbers (if available).
  • Medium of publication.
  • Date you accessed the material.
  • URL (if required, or for your own personal reference; MLA does not require a URL).

It is very important that you cite the medium of publication correctly.

As a general rule, if you have gone to the library, walked into the stacks and physically picked up a book, journal or newspaper, you will cite the medium of publication as Print. To cite a source, you must have held the actual hard copy in your hand during your research process.

However, if you have searched the library database, located an e-book, online journal article or website, you will cite the medium of publication as Web. Even if the library has a hard copy of the book, if you did not hold that copy in your hand, it is a web source.

Here is where it gets a little tricky.

If you are consulting a printed copy of an online article (say, a PDF of an essay provided to you through our Sakai site), you must cite the medium of publication as Web.  The same goes for an article from a journal that is published in print, but that you accessed online via PDF.  If you are accessing a publication that appears both online and in print (like The New York Times or Time magazine), you must cite the medium of publication in the form you accessed it: if you read the article online, it is a web source.  If you went to the newsstand, purchased the paper or magazine and are working from the hard copy of the text, it is a print source.

I noticed that a number of you were correctly citing articles located through a database, correctly noting that you had found the source through EBSCO or LexisNexis, then listing it as a print source.  This is incorrect!  Also, a couple of you listed journal articles as print publications, even though that journal had switched to publishing exclusively online.

It is possible that you will have other mediums of publication, like film, interview, lecture, conference presentation, or digital files (like those PDFs of articles).  Purdue OWL has a full page of how to cite these other formats, and you should consult this site (or another MLA style handbook) when putting together your work cited page.

The rationale behind this distinction is, there can be differences and discrepancies between print and web versions of a story: a web version might be corrected after the print version has been published, may include more up-to-date information, or may have contained unsubstantiated material that was then removed for the print version.  Quotes may be added, updated or deleted based on space available in a print format.  It is important that any future scholars who might look at your Work Cited list (as many of you are doing for your own research) be able to locate the correct version of the text you cite, or at least account for any discrepancies between your quotes and what may appear online or in print.

If you ever have questions about what the correct medium should be, or how to cite a source correctly, first consult your MLA guide.  If you are still confused, you might seek out help from the librarians on the 3rd floor of Library West (or through the convenient Chat with a Librarian feature on the library website) or at the University Writing Program.  Or, come by office hours!

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Grammar Post: Paragraph Cohesion/Quote Sandwich

The easiest way for me to think about incorporating quotes into my own writing is to imagine each paragraph as a sandwich.  It is kind of a goofy image, but it is an easy one to help you remember all the key elements that you need to include in a good paragraph.


Depending on the type of essay, you get to make your own fancy sandwiches and they can be any kind that you want, but they usually have the same basic elements that contribute to good writing.  There are a lot of fun, stylistic ways to adapt the basics to your particular topic, audience and preference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grammar Post: Take Your Time

This is the third in a series of posts aimed at helping you through the process of writing your research papers. Read the first on creating an argument here. Read the second on using good research well here.   I have already addressed forming your arguments and using good research well in previous posts. This post will be focused on easing some of your drafting anxieties.

Tip #3. Research papers take time

A number of you have expressed anxiety about how you aren’t clear on your argument yet or you are still struggling to make all the pieces fit together.  This is TOTALLY normal and to be expected.  At this point in the process, you are likely trying to refine your own argument, pick out primary texts, locate secondary texts, read those sources and incorporate them into you argument, while choosing which parts of those sources should be included in your paper and how to balance them with your own ideas and the information from your primary texts.  Whew.  Here are a couple of tips for you to cope with some of this juggling act. Read the rest of this entry »

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Grammar Post: Use Good Research Well

This is the second in a series of posts aimed at helping you with your research papers. Read the first on creating an argument here.   This post is more directly pointed at research, which you should be working hard at, in preparation for your annotated bibliographies, due April 2.

2. You must use good research well.

A key element of this paper is coming up with your own thesis (see #1), but you also need to show that you have done enough research and are informed enough on the topic to make your argument reliable: this is all about establishing your ethos as a writer.  Believe it or not, you all are now experts on Golden Age children’s literature, more than the average person on the street.  You belong to a community of experts and you want to demonstrate that you are in conversation with those experts.  As such, you should be looking for expert opinions to use in your paper.  If you are working primarily on the literature aspect, you should be looking at the peer-review journals that we talked about in the library.  For those of you who are focusing more on the cultural aspects, (marketing, media, bestsellers), there will be peer-reviewed journals that deal with these topics, but you may also be looking at different kinds of experts: the heads of marketing firms, newspaper/magazine editors, publishing industry insiders.  You should all be good at evaluating the sources and should be able to tell the difference between a reliable online source and one that would not be considered academic or trustworthy.  As always, avoid sites like Wikipedia,, or sparknotes.  If you choose to use less reliable sources (blogs, newspapers, magazines), you will need to take a moment to justify your choices in your paper, in order to shore up your ethos.

There are a couple of expert-level ways to incorporate research into your papers.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Grammar Post: Creating an Argument

All of you are now hard at work on your research for your final papers, and if the proposals and the conversations I have been having with you in office hours are any indication, I am really looking forward to see what you come up with.  The next couple of blog posts will be general advice on research.  I wanted to put some of my advice in a central location for you to look at, in case you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or lost.

Tip #1. You must have an argument

A research paper without an argument is like a Christmas tree without lights: not much to look at. Most of you have asked some really interesting questions in your proposals or outlined some interesting themes: now is the time to turn those ideas into an answer.  Your thesis should be assertive, clear and strong.  It should also be original and based on your own thoughts and ideas, though you will need to back up your thought process and concepts with the ideas of other experts. Your thesis should not include caveats like “I think,” or “it is kind of like this.”  Your thesis should not try to straddle both sides of an issue: “This is both strong and weak,” or “this book is and isn’t a classic.”  You should write your thesis as fact, and then spend the rest of the paper backing up that fact. As you continue through your paper, each time you have thoroughly demonstrated a point or explained a concept, you should be sure to pause and remind the reader how point 1 (or point 4), ultimately ties back to your overall argument.

In this class, you have already worked on two basic academic argument structures: a genre classification and a close-reading.   Academic essays have a few basic argument structures.  The first is a genre classification where you define the characteristics of a genre and then apply argue that a text (usually one that is classified in various genres) belongs in or out of the genre you have defined.  For instance, one could write an essay based on the thesis: “The Hunger Games belongs in the category of post-colonial dystopia due to its use of ABC” or “The Water-Babies should no longer be categorized as a children’s book because it does not meet criteria X, Y or Z.”

Another basic structure is a close reading, where the essay makes a claim for a certain literary device, symbol or motif being used for very specific effects.  For instance, a close reading essay might trace all the mentions of rings in The Princess and the Goblin and argue the ring stands for XYZ symbol.

Other common academic arguments can focus on author’s intent (Nesbit intends to critique the British forms of entertainment,  as evidenced by her use of XYZ), form (The Water-Babies is not a novel but a fairy tale and here are the places in the text that demonstrate the formal differences), or comparison (The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan both imagine children transported to an imaginary land, but one does ABC while the other shows XYZ.).

There are obviously other kinds of arguments, but the important thing is to HAVE ONE!  A good rule of thumb: if you (or a friend/classmate) can not disagree with you, you are not making an argument.  Also, an argument is not a collection of “the following things from the  book are interesting/cool.”

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Grammar Post: ID Active vs Passive






“She was killed [by zombies.]” <—- Makes sense? Yes. It’s passive voice.

“Zombies killed [by zombies] her.” <—- Makes sense? No. It’s active voice.


(In honor of Spring Break, this grammar post is both short and sweet.  Enjoy!)

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Grammar Post: Semi-Colons

1. A semicolon is used for connecting two independent clauses. Two independent clauses can be used as two complete sentences. To combine them together into one sentence, a semicolon should be used.

Example: Summer vacation is boring; I am always looking for something to do.

2. A semicolon is also used as a super comma. When you have a long series of items, you can separate them with commas. However, if you want to describe the items, you will have to use semicolons. Semicolons prevent confusion from occurring.

Example: She travels a lot for work.  In the last year, she has been to Berlin, Germany; Paris, France; London, England; Rome, Italy; Beijing, China; and Sidney, Australia.
Example: For the bake sale, Jimmy made a moist, chocolate cake; a rich, red velvet cake; crispy, chocolate chip cookies; tart lemon squares; fancy Madeline cookies; and a big pitcher of lemonade.

3. A semicolon is used with conjunctive adverbs. It is also used with transitional phrases.  Read the rest of this entry »

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