How to Write a Literary Research Paper

Updated: November 24, 2021
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How to Write a Good Literary Research Paper

Students of English or Literature Studies departments come across the need to compose literary research papers from time to time. Hence, the subject of writing a good one is enjoying unending interest among learners of all proficiency levels and skills.

Here we cover all the basics of literary research paper writing with proper structuring, research, and content in mind. Use these prompts to move one level up in your studies, and the subject of literary analysis will soon become an easy and understandable one for you.

What Is a Literary Research Paper

Before proceeding to concrete literary research paper guidelines, let’s talk in a bit more detail about what such an assignment represents.

Literary analysis focuses on a specific work of literature, with the author diving deeper into the analysis of the writer’s background, the broader context of the work’s composition, and a precise review of the text itself. In the process of writing a literary analysis, you can look into such things as the writer’s unique style and tone of the narrative, the means of figurative language they use, and the plot they unveil before the reader.

How to Start a Literary Research Paper

The right beginning contributes to quick and hassle-free literary research paper completion. Thus, don’t jump into writing at once; research the topic first, read the literary work attentively, and study some background materials about the author. These preliminary facts and findings will shed light on the topic, giving you a better idea of what to write about.

A quick checklist to use when you’re approaching literary analysis is:

  • Who is the text’s author? When did they live? In what major period (political, social) did they create the piece? What personal or broader historical events could have affected their standpoint?
  • In what genre is the work written? Is it a typical representative of the genre or some revolutionary piece introducing a new literary form?
  • Who are the major characters of the work? What traits do they embody?
  • What is the plot’s setting (place and time)? Is it an imaginary or real-life setting?
  • What is the plot? What are the relationships between characters?
  • What is the author’s key message? Is it clearly discernible, or do various experts have different opinions about it?
  • What is the major figurative language means used by the author? How are they used? How do they contribute to the author’s unique style?

By looking at the literary work in more detail and with more depth, you also add depth of insight to your literary research paper. So, it’s always a good idea to spend some spare hours or even days researching your literary piece to complete an informed, data-rich analytical piece for an A grade.

How to Structure a Literary Research Paper

According to the research paper writing conventions, your literary analysis should also comprise three key elements – an introduction, a body of the paper, and a conclusion. The subdivision is arbitrary, but as a rule, the introduction and conclusion take 10% of the assignment’s word count, while the body takes the remaining 90%.

The introduction sets the context of the research paper and clarifies your major arguments on the subject. It ends with a thesis statement encapsulating your key ideas.

The research paper’s body is subdivided into content paragraphs, each of which should be dedicated to one argument. To follow a correct paragraphing principle, start the paragraph with a topic sentence, then present all supporting argumentation for it, and then give a recap of the evidence wrapping your argumentation up concisely. The ending sentence can also serve as a link to the following paragraph.

The research paper’s conclusion summarizes everything said in the body paragraphs and reiterates the thesis statement in light of provided evidence. It usually also draws the readers’ attention to the broader context.

How to End a Literary Research Paper

As it was said above, the literary research paper’s conclusion usually serves as a recap of everything that has been said in the paper’s body. The researcher summarizes all arguments in favor of their thesis statement briefly, bringing parallels to the broader context within which the literary piece was created.

Thus, when discussing some author’s work, you can conclude about the value of this work in the writer’s career or the contribution that this work made to the genre of those days.

Literary Research Paper Outline

To clarify how we structure and organize a literary research paper, let’s consider an example of an outline for the literary research paper on “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Introduction

introduction of the author – Charlotte Gilman – a female author struggling for female equality at the end of the 19th century. Introduction of the novel – “The Yellow Wallpaper” – as the author’s narrative about the nightmarish consequences of patriarchy and women’s deprivation of the freedom of choice at the times of depression.

Body

Paragraph #1 – Depression and inability to manage it in the traps of the patriarchal family. The debilitating impact of patriarchy, with men making decisions for women.

Paragraph #2 – the metaphor of yellow wallpaper as a trap in which women leading a domestic life get, without any ability for self-development.

Paragraph #3 – The role of mental illness in the structure of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” John’s disbelief in the fact that his wife is sick and the dramatic consequences of leaving her depression unattended.

Conclusion

The transformative prose of Gilman, focusing on women’s rightlessness and inability to battle depression, with men deciding for them (even when they believe that they act in the women’s best interest).

Literary Research Paper Introduction

The introduction itself should be attention-grabbing and well-structured.

The vital components of this part include an introductory hook, which may be:

  • An interesting fact.
  • A striking piece of statistics.
  • A famous person’s quote.
  • A rhetorical question.
  • A contradictory statement catching the attention.

After the hook grabs the audience’s attention and induces your readers to go on reading, it’s time to present the general background of the topic and formulate your thesis statement about the literary piece you’re analyzing.

Literary Research Paper Body

Following the paper’s structure that we have covered in the outline section, you can now compose an excellent literary research paper body on your own. Here is an example of what one paragraph might look like:

In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman also raises vital questions about the state of mental health and understanding of mental illness in her epoch. The protagonist of her novel suffers from depression, but her state is further aggravated by her husband’s lack of attention and disbelief about her illness. The solution that he seeks for her state turns into a catastrophe, as the woman goes mad in the trap of four walls.”

Besides, those wondering how to write a literary research paper in APA format should keep in mind the APA referencing rules. This format follows the author-date citation style, and if you use some outside sources in your analysis, you should cite them accordingly. If you rely only on Gilman’s novel, then use (Gilman, 1892) whenever you refer to the original text or indicate the page you refer to when quoting directly, e.g., (Gilman, 1892, p. 4).

Literary Research Paper Conclusion

The concluding part should summarize your arguments and give a major evaluation of the piece.

If we again take Gilman’s novel as an example, you should write about the way Gilman skillfully uncovered the drawbacks of her contemporary society, such as the rightlessness of women, their trapping in the routines of domestic life, and the lack of attention to mental health issues that could cripple people without significant outer signs of disease.

George Lynch
George Lynch
Literature, Psychology, Religion
Experience: 3+ years
I’ve been enjoying academic writing since day one in college. Today, having a full-time job, I’m still looking forward to writing essays and research papers online for others.
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