Poetry Analysis Argument / Research Paper
Note: Take this document with you to any writing lab appointment you make. Tutors need to know this information, in
addition to seeing your essay in order to fully assist you in the writing process.
Points: The final draft of this paper is worth 20% of your overall class grade. Maximum points: 100.
Length: The paper should be a minimum of 4-5 complete pages (not counting the Works Cited page) and should not be more
than 7 pages.
Source Requirement: The Works Cited page must list 4-5 sources, primary and secondary; see note below for more details.
Every source listed on the Works Cited must be used in the text of the paper. Your book’s biography of the poet may be one
source; the poem will be another.
Assignment: For this essay, you will focus on one poem and its poet. It must be a poem assigned in this class.
PART 1: (50 pts)
The first two pages will focus on the life and history of the poet. Choose a specific angle (relationships, education, family,
thematic connection the poem, childhood, vices/problems, etc) to discuss in this portion of the essay.
• Include details from your textbook (if available) and from at least two research sources (15 points).
• Your life and history portion must be accurate, cohesive (not a list), detailed, and focused (15 points).
• You must make and support conclusions about the author (15 points).
• The paper should have an original title that is not just the title of the text you are writing about. State the author’s full
name and title of the text in the introduction, and refer to the author by last name only thereafter. (5 points)
PART 2: (50 pts)
The second section (must be at least three pages) should argue your interpretation of the poem. Consider this to be a
thematic analysis – it will be your job to support your reading of the poem, your interpretation of its theme and how its
use of literary elements contributes to that theme.
• Your essay should show a strong familiarity with the poem and should use literary elements and terminology to explain
your debatable, interpretive angle and argument. (20 points)
• Your introduction must have a debatable thesis. This should be the last sentence (or two, if necessary) of the FIRST
paragraph. Underline your thesis/claim statement to make it stand out. (5 points)
• Everything in your essay should work towards helping your develop and prove the literary argument as stated in this
thesis sentence. This section of your essay should be paragraphs developed in support of your thematic
interpretation of the poem. It should be organized by literary element or section of the poem. Each paragraph
should be an organized, contained unit, using quotes from research and the poem to support your reading. Do
not organize by summary. (20 points)
• This section should use research to support its interpretative claims, integrating quotes into your own sentence. MLA
formatting should be used throughout. (5 points)
You are required to use and document a minimum of four sources in this paper.
• One of these sources should be the primary text (poem) you are discussing.
• Another source may be the biographical information in the textbook.
• The other two or three sources should be secondary sources in which scholars or experts have written their
interpretations and analyses of the texts or topics that are relevant to your argument.
• At least two of your secondary sources must be either database sources (journal articles that you can access
through the library website’s database) OR print sources.
• Additional sources can be any type (website, documentary, personal interview, etc.) as long as they are relevant and
credible. Do NOT use Wikipedia, Ask.com, About.com, Sparknotes.com, etc.
• Each source must be listed on the Works Cited page that will be the last page of your essay.
• Every source listed on the Works Cited page must be used in the text.
• The in-text citations should take readers to the alphabetical list of sources in the Works Cited page and should lead them to the
correct source by providing the FIRST word of the source entry (which will almost always be the author’s last name).
• In-text citations must include page numbers when the source has numbered pages (as almost all of your sources will).
• You should have a good balance of direct quotes and paraphrased information from your sources.
• Every time you use any information from any source, you must credit the source with an in-text citation in the same sentence
with that information so that it is very clear to your readers what information comes from you and what information comes from a
source (and which source it comes from).
• Read more about source documentation in your textbook and/or in the documents posted online.
Your paper and the Works Cited page MUST be submitted in correct MLA format.
If your writing contains ANY plagiarism (if any source information is not credited to the source it came from), you will be
given a ZERO on the paper.
• Don’t try to cover too much information or use too many literary elements as the focus of your work; instead, choose one or two
elements that work together to give an overall interpretation of the text;
• Don’t use summary any more than you need to in order to make a point; assume your readers have already read the text;
summary should only be used as support and for clarity;
• Don’t use 2nd person “you” or “your” in your writing (1st person “I” or “we” is allowed IF it fits the tone and style of your work;
• Do remember to underline your thesis statement and make sure your work stays focused on discussing and proving your main
• Do make sure your work is in MLA format and your sources follow MLA guidelines;
• Do proofread and edit carefully!