When writing about literature, you follow the same basic conventions required of any expository essay. That is, you

--state a thesis in your introduction

--develop that thesis by giving supporting reasons and evidence in the body of the essay

--conclude with a summary of your main points and a restatement of the thesis

--cite and document any quotes.

There are a few conventions in writing about literature of which you should be aware.

Your textbook, Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, has chapters containing detailed instructions on how to write about fiction, poetry, and drama. Each section includes examples of rough drafts, revisions, and completed papers. I strongly recommend that you read these; they will give you a much clearer idea of what is expected of your papers.

For information on using MLA format to cite and document correctly, see Chapter 3 in your text, The Writing Tutorial Services at Indiana University, or The Purdue University Online Writing Lab.

About Wikipedia, SparkNotes, Cliffs Notes, Gradesaver, etc.

Avoid citing Wikipedia, SparkNotes, Cliffs Notes, Gradesaver, and other such sites in academic essays. Since Wikipedia is not edited by reputable experts, it often has errors and isn't reliable. It's okay to use it as a starting point for your own research, but go on and find other sources to verify the information, and cite those in your essay.

The other sites, SparkNotes, etc., are elementary sites with simple information that doesn't dig too deep. Professors think of them as "cheat" sites: people who are too lazy to read the book look at the plot summaries on SparkNotes. People who are too lazy to think and do their own analysis get all their ideas from Cliffs Notes and Gradesaver.

Like Wikipedia, these sites have their uses; they can be a good place to get started if you are totally lost. But please don't stop there: go find more academic and challenging sources. And for Heaven's sake, DO NOT cite them in your Works Cited list if you want your professors to take you seriously.

And if you need help getting started or with a rough draft, please feel free to see me in my office (my office location and hours are posted on the Schedule) or e-mail me at annw708@earthlink.net.