Principles for the Writing of 'A' Papers


1) Avoid paraphrase. Never stop at just describing a work, interpret it. Explain what's significant about the elements you point out. Is there an argument you can make about the work?

2) Once you have an argument to make, you need to support it with a good deal of either textual support (that is to say, specific quotations from the text) or close analysis of scenes in a film. The latter will require you to re-see specific scenes more than once so that you can begin to point out elements that may escape a viewer on first blush.

3) Avoid simply "throwing in" quotations without proper transitions or proper analysis. If you chose the quotation, it's likely rich enough that it deserves a clear analysis, a close reading. Tease out what's significant about the quotation and clarify how it supports the arguments you are making.

4) Be sure you have a clear structure to your paper. Avoid providing mere lists (here's an example and here's an example and here's an example, etc.). Always ask yourself if you can tie together all of the paragraphs in your paper into a general clearly defined and logically developed thesis. Is there a way that you can illustrate how all the paragraphs in your essay are intimately linked? For example, if the first part of your essay is on frame narratives and the second part of the paper is on discursive technique in film, how are these two elements interelated? Why talk about both in the same essay?

5) If you're talking about two different works, be sure to tie them together clearly. Refer back to things you pointed out earlier in your paper about the other work or, better yet, organize your paragraphs around specific ideas and discuss both works simultaneously.

6) Write to a general reader, not to me personally. Avoid phrases like, "as we saw in class" or "as you stated on November 12th" or "we've seen a lot of examples of this phenomenon." Any reader should be able to pick up the paper and make perfect sense of it.

7) Have a look at 'A' papers so you have a good idea about what constitutes 'A' work.