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Writing Program

Sample Paragraph for Research Paper

D. Battles

The paragraph below comes from a paper on the medieval poem The Tale of Gamelyn.  The paper looks specifically at the band of forest-dwellers portrayed in the poem, and argues the thesis that rather than being a pack of bums, these forest-dwellers closely resemble the Anglo-Saxon silvatici (forest men), essentially noblemen who were forced to take refuge in the forest to avoid death and persecution.   The paragraph below provides a nice model for your research paper paragraphs in how it includes the following elements:

*  Topic sentence that contains 1) the specific topic of the paragraph (the gentility of the forest-dwellers) and 2) opinion (these forest-dwellers resemble the Anglo-Saxon silvatici), which reflects back on the thesis.

*  A sense of the opposition (these men are "outlaws" - bums).

Variety of secondary sources (Donnelly, Hoffman, Scattergood, Keen, Sands).  You may also quote briefly from any of your secondary sources, but avoid overly long quotes from your secondary sources.   

Copious Evidence from the primary text (The Tale of Gamelyn) in the form of selective quotes.

A concluding sentence that re-states the topic sentence.

The band of forest-dwellers whom Gamelyn joins resembles the Anglo-Saxon silvatici first and foremost in their gentility.  Like Hereward and his men, the forest men of the poem are referred to as "outlawes" (ll. 637, 660, 669).  Nevertheless, their speech and demeanor reveal a surprising level of refinement (Donnelly 340-1; Hoffman 163; Scattergood 177-8).  For example, upon hearing Gamelyn and Adam advancing towards their area, the leader of the outlaws says to his men "''oung men...by the goode roode,/I am war of gestes  god sende vs non but goode!'" (ll. 639-40), and promptly dispatches a couple of men to stop and question Gamelyn.  Such a clear chain of command, adherence to the terms and customs of hospitality, and references to divine gifts all suggest noble origins.  Nor do his men disappoint him, addressing Gamelyn and Adam as "'onge men" (l. 648) when telling them to disarm, and inviting them "myldely and stille" (l. 655) before their leader.   Interestingly, when Gamelyn first spies the men in the forest, he anticipates the real possibility that they might, in fact, be of noble origin, again using hospitality as the test.  Gamelyn says to Adam "'If that he be hende   and come of gentil blood,/He wol 'eve vs mete and drynk   and doon vs som good'" (ll. 663-4), a test which the outlaw leader passes when he "bad hem ete and drynk   and that of the beste" (l. 680), thus treating these "gestes" with particular honor in conferring the best of what they have.  Later in the poem, after evading imprisonment until his trial, Gamelyn returns to the woods "And fond there pleying   'onge men of prys" (l. 772).  Far from being hardened criminals, these are men of "pris" (reputation, worth) who enjoy sporting (ll. 130-136, 254; 307; Sands 117).  This portrait accords with Maurice Keen's observations of the outlaw tradition as a whole, whereby men take to the forest not for reasons of social class such as trying to escape an unfree status (Keen 93).  Thus, the band of forest-dwellers of Gamelyn are homeless men who, nevertheless, display civility and grace on the order of the silvatici, whose ranks included earls.

Exercise:  Using different colored pens/highlighters, highlight the following:

  1. Instances where the author quotes the primary source (the poem in question).
  2. Instances where the author quotes and/or cites secondary sources (other scholars).
  3. Instances where the author acknowledges the Opposition (the counter-argument).

What is the proportion of the primary source evidence (direct quotes from the poem) to the secondary source evidence?

What is the proportion of the author's argument to those of other authors?

Does the author agree or disagree with what other scholars have said about this particular point?  How does the author expand upon those earlier observations? (This is where the author's originality comes into play).

How many other scholars are cited in this paragraph?  Why might it be important to cite more than one outside source in a research paper paragraph?