How the Product Purchase Recommendation Resembles and Differs From a Literary Analysis Paper


1) You have to examine the evidence and find a pattern in it that makes meaning that is not immediately obvious so you have something that needs saying (like adding your own logic to what the sources are telling you to come up with a precisely targeted product, not just repeating the generalities you find already printed).

2) You have to establish a clear set of logical reasons for looking at the evidence as you do (like the logic underpinning the order in which you presented the features).

3) You can't appear unwisely biased in favor of your own reading, but must examine and refute other possible or probable explanations for the presence of what you find in the text (like the "competing product models" you compared to your choice).

4) You have to be aware of the needs your best readers have for sufficient evidence to encourage them to believe your thesis, presented in a coherent order and with proper source documentation. Once you have developed your own thesis based on the evidence, read some critical literature on your topic and see what else your best readers recently have been reading about the tale. Referring to this ongoing discussion lets your readers know where your ideas fit into what's already been written, and persuades them you are reasonable enough to be willing to hear and understand what others have to say (like knowing how Consumer Reports' opinion of the car differed from Car and Driver's, and being ready to discuss why they might see things differently).

5) You also have to avoid telling your best readers things they already know (e.g., "'My Kinsman, Major Molineux' was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne." which would be like telling high-school-aged readers searching for colleges that Harvard is a university in Boston). You also have to avoid casually "flattering your subject" (e.g., "the great William Shakespeare"), for the same reason I advised you not to become an advertiser for the product you eventually recommend. If a new reason for considering an author excellent emerges from your analysis, then it's good to make that claim in a specific fashion, but don't fall into substituting empty praise for tough analysis.


1) Scholarly prose uses middle diction, never slang, and it pays close attention to sentence structure because errors in grammar can distract readers who are trying to follow the paper's complex thinking about difficult concepts. Scholarly readers spend hours reading every week, and they jealously guard that reading time because it is essential to remaining up-to-date on scholarship in their fields of study. Perhaps many college teachers seem obsessed with usage, spelling and punctuation errors because they resent the time wasted by the distraction they cause. Few newspaper or magazine readers are so precise.

2) You don't need to explain, in endnotes, why you are using recognized scholarly sources like professional journals or books published by university presses, because you're working within a system of writing and reading that presumes you will do that. You do have to make yourself aware of errors of fact or logic that have crept into scholarly writing, but that's a tough job unless a scholarly book reviewer has done it for you.  Ask me if you have doubts about a scholarly source.

3) You don't have to summarize the plot or quote long passages because your best readers will be those who have read the book or seen the film, and they will expect you to know it well, too. The product purchase recommendation might have required you to describe a new variety of a familiar product, but the "literary product" already is a known commodity, almost one-of-a-kind, more like "the classic Porsche 911S Roadster once owned by John Wayne" than any old 1999 Dodge Omni.

4) Unlike the product reviewers, who all will tend to point to the same major features (often in the same order), readers of literature come to the text from a wide variety of perspectives. You can trust that most of them probably have not decided to look at precisely the pattern you have chosen to explain, since literature tends to contain so many carefully chosen words in complex relationships to one another.   For that reason, you are unlikely to find "evidence supporting your thesis" in any obvious form in other people's arguments--their evidence supports their theses.  However, the good news is that your evidence and thesis may be publishable if you do not find it already in print.  If you do find it in print, after you have made a good-faith effort to develop your own argument, you have done nothing wrong.  See me and I will show you how to account for it.  Undergraduates (especially in 105) are not usually expected to produce never-before-published but publishable writing, so if you do find your paper already in print, I treat it as confirmation that you had an excellent insight.  Just make sure you don't consult secondary sources on your short stories before you have written out your thesis and its support.

5) A product purchase recommendation would be a failure, by most accounts, if it did not choose a single product to recommend, but a piece of literary analysis may determine that more than one cause may be involved in explaining how or why some pattern in the text exists (see Similarity 3 above). However, if this is your thesis, you must clearly indicate it in your title and introduction, and the paper's body must be organized so the possible explanations occur in a logical order, usually "ascending importance or likelihood" (see Similarity 2 above).