Research Essay Assignment Sheet

essay qualities
Your task for this project is to design and carry out a research agenda that will create knowledge about images in American history by contributing to ongoing scholarship.  The product will be a formal essay that will:

  • identify a driving research question and articulate how it relates to prior scholarship.  Note: This question must be one that can be answered by focused analysis of images &/or by close analysis of how people in the past used or understood images.
  • articulate the research agenda–the central question, the central issue, your methodology–that drives the essay
  • review and engage with (countering/forwarding) relevant scholarship, for arguments and/or methods, with an eye for what you aim to contribute
  • introduce and describe in detail key characteristics of your primary/exhibit sources (the images, but also other primary sources)
  • develop claims through detailed analysis and logical interpretation of relevant evidence
  • follow an organizational scheme designed to guide the reader through the stages of your argument
  • acknowledge and address potential objections to your argument  (counter-claims, counter-evidence, counter-logic)
  • present your intellectual work in a credible manner, attending to the writing and citation conventions shared by your audience, including correct grammar usage and careful proofreading.
  • develop an analytical and narrative voice appropriate to an audience of your scholarly peers and other academic readers, but perhaps also to a broader popular audience

grading criteria

For criteria used in evaluating final essays, see Project 4 > Essay Evaluation.


  • See my attached Chicago_Model_Format (PDF linked here), which illustrates much of what I discuss below.
  • 3600 words (+/- 10%, incl. footnotes).  Double spaced, 1-inch margins, in an appropriate font of your choice, roughly equivalent in size to 12-point Calibri or Cambria.
  • pages numbered in footer or header
  • header with your last name on every page (can be next to page numbers)
  • first page (not a cover page): your name and title of essay
  • Chicago footnote citation (full note / short note). See Lipson, Cite Right and Tipsheets > Chicago Citation: Guidelines & Examples.
  • images selected carefully for your analytical purposes, integrated within the next (not appended at the end). See Tipsheets > Handling Images.
  • posted to Bb > File Sharing > Research Essay Final, as PDF, with file named as follows:  yourSurname_Research_final.PDF
  • your acknowledgements (thanks to those who helped you in any way–peer respondents, librarians, Writing Center readers, etc.), formatted as a footnote or as a note at the end of the essay, several line spaces after the body of text.
  • your abstract of your own essay, 100-200 words, at the top of the essay, following the criteria in the Abstract Assignment Sheet, except you may cast in first person.


You have two good models of student work from a similar course of mine (on comics and graphic novels) that were subsequently published:

Laser-Robinson, Alexander S. “An Analysis of Herge’s Portrayal of Various Racial Groups in The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus,” Euonymous (2005-2006), repr. at

Kowalik, Jessica. “Miller Misunderstood: Rethinking the Politics of The Dark Knight,” International Journal of Comic Art 12.1 (2010): 388-400.  PDF here: kowalik_politics_darknight_IJCA. [Or find it in Gelman 3rd Floor, Periodicals.]