How to Write a Great Literary Research Paper

A literary research does more than discuss a literary text, it brings that text into light of a bigger subject surrounding it. It can be conversation that stretches back hundreds of years and include any of a number of scholarly voices.

  • Select a topic and develop a working thesis. You may have noticed a few things from your readings: a recurring style of writing or theme, or structure that is begging for analysis. Pick a topic that interests you then ask yourself a few questions about what it is you’d like to have answered. This sort of preliminary thinking will help you narrow your topic into something manageable that can turn into your first working thesis to guide your research.
  • Bring your sources together. Search library catalogs, academic journals and search bibliographies to find scholarly works in your literary topic. You should also consult your professor and ask for any suggestions. Doing so can also give you some insight of what it is your instructor expects from you in the project.
  • Conduct your research. Read through the resources you’ve collected. Pay close attention to interesting arguments, especially those that say something about an aspect of your project and provide either supporting or rebuttal evidence. Take notes in whatever way is comfortable to you, and be sure to keep the appropriate citation information.
  • Draft your outline. Now that you have all your ideas together, you should take the time to create an outline for your paper. You can revise your thesis statement so that it represents your revised argument. List all of the major points you plan to make in your paper in a logical order. Provide pieces of evidence in short phrases beneath each major point. You may need to revise your outline a few times so that the logic presents your argument more effectively. Use your outline as a guide when you begin writing your first draft. It will keep you from getting to far off point.
  • Start writing. Start with your introduction, giving a general discussion of what your paper is about and the reasons you chose to write about this topic. Include your thesis statement at the end of your introduction and move-on towards your body paragraphs. Each body paragraphs should include a single idea that is clearly stated in the topic sentence, followed by evidence you’ve gathered in your readings. Since this is a draft it’s okay to jump back and forth. At this point it’s important to get all of your ideas down.
  • Revise your paper. These are your final steps and are absolutely necessary in all kinds of great writing. After writing your draft, you will want to look for ways to revise your content. This means removing paragraphs or whole sections if they don’t add value to your paper. It means moving sentences around and thinking of ways to improve your paper so that it will get your point across more effectively.
  • Proofread and edit. After revising, you should print out another copy and proofread your paper in its entirety, then at the paragraph level, and finally at the sentence level. Look for spelling errors, grammar mistakes and word choice. Be sure to cut out anything extra and aim to keep your paper as clear and concise as possible.