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Writing Prompt

Formal Paper 4: Research Paper

Your fourth and final formal paper will bring together all the skills we’ve developed this semester. By doing independent research on a topic of your interest, you will develop a deeper understanding of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony. Like all prior papers, this one must be argumentative and analytical, not merely informative.

No matter your topic, this paper should include an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement, four body paragraphs with topic sentences, and a conclusion. It should be 6-7 typed pages, following the formatting guidelines described in the syllabus.

You must include 3 (exactly 3) sources. These must be either academic papers found through the Rutgers Libraries database or books.

Be sure to include a works cited page. Your grade will automatically drop half a grade if the works cited is missing.

Topic Proposal:

Unlike previous essays, I am not assigning a specific prompt. (There are, however, some options below.) Select a topic that is of genuine interest to you.

The first requirement for this paper is a topic proposal. You must submit a one-page, typed proposal that describes your research topic, why you chose it, how it is argumentative, and what subtopics you intend to research. You must also lay out questions that you will need to answer and offer a research plan.

Failure to submit a topic proposal on time will automatically lower your overall paper grade by half a letter.


As you pick a topic, consider what type of inquiry you are interested in engaging. Do you want to research history? Psychology? Politics? Literary theory?

Here are a few topic suggestions. You may pick/adapt one of these or come up with your own.

· Ceremony recounts Tayo’s lengthy healing process, in which stories play crucial roles. Identify the tensions in the stories Tayo tells and is told, focusing on specific figures, symbols, and histories. How do stories function in his healing?

· Ceremony explores the history of American Indian enlistment in the U.S. Army. What forces drive Tayo to enlist? How does his experience fighting in World War II reflect larger tensions in U.S. history?

· Argue how two characters in the novel function as foils. Consider a particular theme this helps develop, such as the experience of trauma, the tensions between Pueblo Laguna culture and hegemonic American culture, or our relationship to the environment.

· Analyze the function of animals throughout Ceremony. How does the motif develop throughout the book? What does Silko’s depiction of animals allow her to communicate?

· Although the novel’s main character is a man, women play central roles throughout the narrative. How are gender roles represented in the novel?

· If you select to pick your own topic, I encourage you to pick a single theme, symbol, or motif to focus on. Remember that the more specific your topic, the easier it will be to write a strong paper.


Your thesis must present a single, specific argument, which your whole essay must support.

Provide text-based evidence and analysis, NOT general statements or personal speculation.

Incorporate 3-4 points of evidence from each secondary source. Again, there must be 3 secondary sources, and they must be academic in nature (books or academic journals).

Avoid over-simplification. Dig into the nuance of each text.


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