Feminism, Psychoanalytic and Postcolonial Discussion

For your final paper you will write a research paper on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Your argument will be part of a feminist, psychoanalytic, or postcolonial critical discussion of the text. You are required to use six secondary sources, four of which are on the novel itself.

The basic process involved in writing a research paper in literature is no different than other kinds of research papers. Begin with an area of interest, ask questions sparked by that interest, and formulate a working hypothesis as a response to one or more of those questions.


The better you know the text, the easier it will be to find a topic. I highly advise rereading the text and writing down ideas as you read. Pay attention to recurring themes; ask questions that prompt and guide further inquiry. To begin your inquiry, use the questions in our critical theory text. One or more of those questions might lead you to a specific hypothesis of your own, or you might find that the text allows for an entirely different psychoanalytic or postcolonial reading.

When you have a hypothesis (one that you’ll refine into a strong thesis), start gathering sources. Begin with searches specific to your topic, and broaden them until you have a sufficient number of secondary sources to review.

The goal of the research is, first, for you to see how your hypothesis fits into the critical discussion of your topic. You’ll find that much has been said about the topic, in which case you will need to ask yourself how you can add to the discussion. You might agree with critics, but come to your conclusion through different analyses, or you might disagree and make that disagreement your
thesis. It’s also possible that there is very little (or no) critical discussion of your specific topic. In that case, you are exploring new territory and offering new ways of understanding the text.

The second goal of the research is for you to introduce the critical discussion as context for your now refined thesis and to continue that discussion throughout your essay, quoting and paraphrasing criticism wherever it relates to your main ideas.


Primary sources are the literary works themselves, such as Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Secondary sources are works that analyze and interpret primary sources or provide relevant information. For this paper, you are required to use six secondary sources. Four of your sources must discuss the novel itself.
Your other sources might be used for relevant contextual information, relevant concepts, etc. All of your sources must be scholarly (scholarly books or scholarly articles).

As a student, you have access to a variety of databases through the library website. Use these databases to search for scholarly articles.

Scholarly articles are written by scholars and experts in a particular field. In addition to using the database search features to find scholarly articles, you can look for certain key features to identify a scholarly article. For example, the title of a scholarly article is usually straightforward and reflects the content of the article. The author’s name and affiliation (a university, for example) is present.
Scholarly articles are longer than popular magazine articles, and they contain no images. They always include research and provide references.

Newspaper articles, magazine articles, and encyclopedia articles are not scholarly articles. Also note that a web source is different from a scholarly article you access online. Web sources are articles or other pieces that are published on the web (a Wikipedia article, for example). These are different from articles written by scholars that happen to be available electronically.

Doing the research is a major part of this assignment, so I suggest you begin right away so that you have enough time to evaluate, select, and synthesize sources. Some of the sources you look at will, upon closer evaluation, turn out not to be useful to you.

Follow MLA formatting and documentation guidelines for the format of your essay and the
documentation of your sources in the text and in the Works Cited page. Papers that don’t follow MLA guidelines accurately will lose points.

Review Ch. 10 (“Writing a Research Essay on Fiction”) in Literature for a detailed guide on finding sources, creating a working bibliography, and integrating and documenting sources.

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