English 391W: Dreams

Research Projects

April 3, 2010 · No Comments

Write an essay that contributes to a conversation about the art and science of dreams underway in our course reading. This is a broad assignment, and it will be up to you to narrow it. There are two general requirements for every essay:

1.)    You must create dialogue between some form of art and some form of dream theory.
2.)    In addition to course reading, you must engage sources you find through our own research.

(The balance of course reading and outside research or art and theory will vary, depending on the project. We’ll discuss various possibilities and do a fair amount of collective brainstorming in the coming weeks.)

Getting Started
Start with our course reading. Think about ideas, questions, writers, or texts that have caught your attention. Scroll through the blogs—your own and your classmates’. Let your mind wander over this material informally. Brainstorm out loud with classmates, with me, with friends or relatives. Jot down some ideas, either on your own or on your blog. Take a look at some of the links on our Blackboard site. Spend some time on the Association for the Study of Dreams web site. Take notes and keep in mind that you are in search of a genuine question about some aspect of dreams, a question that arises in the reading you’ve done but is not exhausted by any of the texts we’ve read.

Where and How to Find Sources
Once you have an idea or two (or three), look through the works cited lists of some of our course texts, for other sources that might help you develop your ideas. Get your hands on some of these sources and see if reading them prompts you to change direction or reformulate your question. In a few weeks, we’ll spend some time working with some of the Library’s databases (for example the MLA Bibliography, PsychInfo, or EBSCO). These will help you find more sources, which will in turn help you think about your topic in new ways. The research process is seldom simple or linear. It involves brainstorming, searching, reading, writing, re-reading, revising, more brainstorming, more searching and reading, more writing, etc. It will involve exciting moments of discovery and frustrating dead ends. Let your ideas develop a step at a time.

Writing with Purpose
Be sure you develop your project, as mentioned above, around a genuine question or problem. Be sure also that you re-evaluate your question as the project evolves. Keep in touch with your motive and be aware of how your ideas and arguments fit within the ongoing conversations underway in your sources. (Kerry Walk’s handout on “Motivating Moves,” available under “Course Documents,” is useful for helping you think about motive, or purpose.)

Write an essay people want to read, and have an audience in mind. It’s safe to imagine your readers as educated and intellectually curious people who are likely to know little or nothing about dream theory but perhaps a little more about the works of art or authors you discuss. These readers will want to learn something and be engaged (or entertained). They will want to come away from your essay with new information, something they can talk about at dinner parties or at work: “Hey, did you read that article about lucid dreams? The writer made this really interesting argument.” If you can inspire readers to do that, you will have been successful. To make this work, you will need to be thorough in your research, to digest the material you find, synthesize it, and write about it in clear, engaging prose.

The finished essay should be between 3,000 – 4,000 words (approximately 12 – 16 pages) in length. Please use a 12-point font and 1” margins. Include page numbers, a title, and Works Cited list. Use MLA Style. (See link on on this site for Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab guidelines for MLA Style.)

Cover Letters
Submit a cover letter with each draft or revision of your essay. Use the cover letter to orient your readers—explaining what you set out to accomplish, what you still need to work on, and what kind of help you would like. Be specific. You might even include a list.

Writing Groups
Each of you is assigned to a writing group. In these groups, you will read and provide feedback on each other’s  essay sketches, annotated bibliographies, and drafts. (I’ll give you more detailed instructions when the time approaches.)

1. Sara, Shane, Serene

2. Kathleen, Eileen, Elyse

3. Jocelyn, Danabelle, Chris, Brett

4. Fotini, Michael, Hasina

5. Melissa, Joanne, Alison

Due dates

4-25: Annotated Bibliography (to me and your writing group, by email)

4-28 & 5-5: Proposal Presentations (in class)

5-12: Essay Sketch (to me and your writing group, by email)

5-16: Draft (to me and your writing group, by email)

5-19: Draft workshop

5-25: Revised Essay

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