The Argument Proposal

What is an argument proposal? 

This assignment is designed to help you get started in writing your final paper.  It contains two parts: 1) the preliminary working thesis, and 2) the annotated bibliography

, come up with a question that your paper will answer.  If I have already supplied you with a question, then skip this part of the assignment.

Second, answer the question and this will be your preliminary working thesis.  A thesis is one sentence, so do not include a paragraph that contains ideas about what you might write. 

Your answer might change as you begin writing, which means your thesis will change.  This is alright; however, you are not allowed to change your question or your paper topic once you have turned in the annotated bibliography. 

How do I know if I have a thesis?

The following are topics, not theses.  They do not answer a question nor do they make a claim.

"Sherman Alexie and his representation of alcohol in his work."
"Henry David Thoreau and his views of the landscape."

Why are they not working theses?

A thesis should be a subject up for debate.  Your job is to get your audience to take your side.  Moreover, the above topics do not answer the "so what?" question.  So what if Alexie represents alcohol in his work!  Why should I care about Thoreau's views on the landscape?

Tell us something new or controversial about their work.  A thesis needs to make an original or an arguable claim, a claim that will enlighten your readers about something they do not know or that would cause them to disagree with you. 

A thesis does not make an evaluative claim, such as, "Whitman is the greatest American poet."  This point is based on the writer's opinion and is not the proper subject for an argumentative paper. 

Click here for more on good thesis writing.

PART TWO: THE ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY--(for instructions on how to format, see below)


The annotated bibliography is composed of the secondary sources you will use when writing your research paper.  It should include the books and articles that you have chosen for your research paper.

Each citation should be followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph.  This is the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader (me) of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.  It also means that you should have read the work.


Primary sources--List the primary sources but do not include an annotation.

Secondary sources (scholarly sources only!) = Any combination of books, journal articles, or chapters from edited collections.  You are only allowed to use 1
reputable internet source.  You should have a total of 5 or more secondary sources.  Include the library call # or the web address. 


Annotated Bibliography (sample)

Bell, Robert C. "Circular Design in Ceremony."
American Indian Quarterly 5 February 1979: 47-61. (include library call #)

Bell's article deals with the relationship between Ceremony and the mythic patterns of Native American rituals. He shows how much of the mythic material is based on the Red Antway ceremony. He relates this specifically to the hoop ceremony and the story of the witches in Betonie's ceremony, explaining how Tayo becomes identified with the characters in the rituals in order to transform himself and achieve healing. He outlines several of the connections between characters and events in the novel and mythic figures. This is an excellent article to accompany a reading of Ceremony.  (In order to make this entry evaluative, this annotation also needs to explain why the article will help you write the paper).

Irmer, Thomas. "An Interview with Leslie Marmon Silko."
12 March 2001 <>

Thomas Irmer interviews Silko in Leipzig, Germany. His first questions deal with the relationship of Native American storytelling tradition to Silko's work. The interview is interesting because Silko talks about her interest in German and British pre-Christian story traditions and in the connection between these and her own culture. The two discuss European stereotypes of Native Americans. Finally, Irmer asks Silko about her last novel Almanac of the Dead. Silko's answers provide an excellent summary of the themes of this novel and its relationship to current political issues (e.g. CIA involvement in Central America, the drug trade, local politics in the Southwest). (In order to make this entry evaluative, this annotation also needs to explain why the article will help you write the paper).