Prof. Karl Petruso

Research Paper Guidelines

The following remarks are intended to guide you in the preparation of your research paper. If you have any questions about content and presentation involving matters not covered below, please see me.

All students in the course will write a research paper. You may use this opportunity to delve into a topic you would like to learn more about. For some students, the paper is an opportunity to raise their average course grade.

Topics for research papers will not be assigned. You are free to propose anything within the scope of Egyptian archaeology, and are encouraged to pursue a topic of interest to you. In any event, you should inform me of your chosen topic no later than midsemester (October 19). I will help you shape the topic and will recommend starting bibliography. ALL RESEARCH PAPER TOPICS MUST BE APPROVED BY ME IN WRITING.


The intent of this assignment is to encourage you to explore the sources on ancient Egypt beyond the level of the course readings. Your paper will give you the opportunity to demonstrate a mastery of your chosen topic and a familiarity with the relevant scholarly sources. Strive to identify and read the important works that bear on your topic. Since our library collections are not rich in Egyptian archaeology, you will doubtless need to use the services of the Interlibrary Loan Office (Main Library, first floor; orders may be placed online). ILL orders can often be filled within a week or so, but the more obscure titles will take longer. Do not put off ordering seminal works for your paper until the last minute. Interlibrary Loan is a valuable resource for research; it is expected that you will take advantage of it.

This is to be a formal paper, not an essay or creative writing assignment. Avoid using the first person. Subjective opinions and affective conclusions have no place in such a paper. If your topic demands that you discuss and evaluate the competing arguments of several scholars, do not hesitate to cite which one seems most reasonable to you, but your conclusion should be argued, with reference to specific evidence, rather than simply chosen for more or less arbitrary reasons. Part of the exercise of doing a research paper is to hone your skills in evaluating—and making—logical arguments.

The best papers (and the ones most worth doing) are problem-oriented, and ancient Egypt has no dearth of problems to investigate. Your paper should not be simply an exercise in description, but rather an attempt to wrestle with interpretation at some level within the scope of your topic. You should read generally on your topic during the months of September and October, and identify a discrete subject that is worth pursuing. You are not expected to resolve a problem, but you should demonstrate that you can come to grips with it and write cogently about it.


• If you have never written a research paper before, you should invest in a copy of the latest edition of Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations, which is available in the UTA Bookstore and elsewhere. This book will answer your questions about format, citations, and organization.
On a more general level, you will find it useful to read Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. This little book has been guiding authors for seventy years. You will find it a gold mine of information and tips on writing clearly.
• Your paper must be typed in a non-fancy, normal-sized font (10- to 12-point), double-spaced, on 8 1/2 x 11" white paper, with a cover page, stapled in the upper left-hand corner. Do not print it out on 3-hole punched paper. Do not put it in a report cover. I hate report covers, especially plastic ones.
• Length: 8-12 pages of text would be appropriate for this assignment, not including footnotes/endnotes, bibliography, illustrations, title page, etc.
• Your paper must be paginated, preferably at bottom center. Note that page 1 (not the cover page) is the first page of text.
• I am not particular about footnoting/endnoting styles, but you should choose one convention and stick to it consistently. I would prefer to see (and you will find it easiest to make) parenthetical references, in the text, as in this example:

The role played by Apophis in the death of Seqenenre is not at all clear, but to judge from the pathologies displayed by Seqenenre's mummy, the Theban king's final days were rather unlikely to have been pleasant ones (Seele 1957:28-29).

• If you use footnotes or endnotes rather than parenthetical references, however, they should be Arabic numbers, not lower-case Roman numerals. I hate Roman numerals, especially lower-case ones.
• Whether you use parentheticals, footnotes or endnotes, your references should be as precise as necessary. If you are referencing a particular fact, datum or theory, the format is (Author Year:Pages). If you are merely referring to a study in a general way, (Author Year) will suffice. Your bibliography will, of course, list in alphabetical order by author all works cited in your references.
• Only items you have consulted should be listed in your bibliography. Do not pad the bibliography with works you have not consulted.
• Quotations of more than a few lines should be formatted as block quotes (single-spaced and indented).
• You are required to document fully all facts and ideas outside the realm of common knowledge, as well as direct quotations and paraphrases. If you are unclear about what constitutes plagiarism, please familiarize yourself with this phenomenon immediately. Plagiarism is a grave matter, and is quite unacceptable in the academic community. UTA policy on plagiarism provides for several responses, including expulsion.
• You are not to cite online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia. Their authoritativeness and reliability are uncertain, and they should play no role as references in any university-level research paper.
• Most topics will require (or at least benefit from including) illustrations. You should also include maps if appropriate to your topic. Photocopies of published drawings and photos from books or images lifted from the web will suffice. These should be referred to at appropriate places in the text of the paper; otherwise they are superfluous. Each illustration should be numbered and accompanied by a caption and should include a credit (citation of the book or article from which it was taken), either in the caption itself or in a list at the end of the paper.
• Be sure to proofread your paper carefully (or have someone else do it) before you hand it in. Part of your grade will be based on the presentation of the final product. Organization, grammar, syntax and spelling are all important, and will be taken into account when assigning your grade. It is difficult to read for content when one is distracted by sloppiness.
• All written works consulted must be listed in a bibliography at the end of your paper. Your bibliography ought to include something on the order of a dozen sources at least. Journal articles as well as books should be represented. Try to avoid relying on elementary, breathless, unscholarly coffee-table, magnificence-of-ancient-Egypt
surveys; they will not be relevant for this assignment, and they should not pad your bibliography.
• Finally: papers not conforming to the above requirements will be subject to downgrading.


In general, you are advised to be careful in using online sources. Websites are notoriously variable in their scholarly quality and reliability; this is particularly true of websites on ancient Egypt, a topic that has always been extremely attractive to crackpots. In general, websites affiliated with universities (with URLs ending in .edu) are probably reliable. But you are advised to rely primarily on scholarly books unless you have a very good reason to cite web resources (e.g., in the case of recent discoveries and presentations by their discoverers, or new interpretations that have not yet been published). If you have any doubts about the reliability of particular websites, consult me. All web resources used for your paper should be cited in your bibliography.

Most of the fundamental scholarship in Egyptian archaeology is not (and probably never will be) online. One of the objectives of this course is to familiarize you with seminal works in the field, i.e., books, monographs and journal articles. Consult as many websites as you like (being mindful of the admonition above); but as a rule of thumb, you should have many more books and articles than URLs listed in your bibliography.


You are strongly encouraged to submit a draft of your paper. This is optional; if you wish to submit a draft, please do so by Friday, November 16. I will read it and return it to you ASAP for final polishing.

Final versions of the papers are due on or before Friday, December 3 at 5:00 pm in hard copy in my mailbox in the Sociology and Anthropology office (UH 430).
They will not be accepted electronically. Late submissions will be docked one letter grade through December 7; papers submitted after December 7 will not be read and will receive a grade of zero.

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