How to Write a Dissertation in Classic English Literature

The thought of writing a dissertation in classic English literature can be daunting because it’s the most important paper you need to complete during your academic career. This task involves undertaking an in-depth research, reporting about your findings, and discussing the results. Writing a dissertation differs from everything you’ve written before mainly because you need to do more reading and more planning, have to work independently, and, above all, you are required to produce a more extended piece of writing.

To help you cope with this complex project, we’ve created this easy guide on how to write a dissertation in classic English literature. We’ll discuss the writing process in detail step-by-step, from selecting a good topic to editing and proofreading. Besides, you’ll find here some interesting dissertation topics for inspiration. And don’t forget that if you have problems with completing other types of academic paper, at our website, you’ll find lots of full guides to all writing assignments out there.

What Is a Dissertation in Classic English Literature?

Your dissertation in classic English literature should be an independent piece of work. It’s not expected to give an original contribution to the knowledge, but it must be original in the sense of being a completely independent piece of writing. Wondering what it means?

  • Your dissertation in classic English literature must be based on thorough research and wide reading and you need to demonstrate your own understanding of the dissertation subject.
  • You must show that you can analyze and criticize both primary texts and relevant literature on your topic.
  • To ensure that your dissertation has a clear focus, you need to formulate a research question and answer it in the text of your paper.

Your dissertation should be approximately 10,000 words in length so it involves an in-depth exploration of a specific topic in the area of your choice.

Choose a Good Topic for Your Dissertation in Classic English Literature

The first step is choosing your field of interest. You should think about topics that you‘ve enjoyed most of all while studying the course. Investigating your subject may take a lot of time and the process will seem less intimidating if you are genuinely interested in your research topic. Besides, you have to do a preliminary research to ensure that you’ll be able to find plenty of literature to support your ideas. Read the existing critical literature to identify the best perspective to take. Preliminary reading can help you identify the gaps that you can address in your paper.

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?

If you have no idea of how to get started with the subject of your dissertation in classic English literature, take a look at this short list of engaging topics.

  • Woman as a Hero in Classic English Literature;
  • Effect of Milton’s Paradise Lost on Seventeenth-century Literature;
  • Comparison of Love Expression for the Fair Lord and the Dark Lady in Shakespeare’s Sonnets;
  • Power and Gender in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield;
  • Medieval Tradition in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Writings;
  • George Eliot’s Feminism in The Mill on the Floss;
  • The Gothic in Daphne du Maurier’s Fiction;
  • Satire and Ambiguity in Thomas More’s Utopia;
  • Violence and hatred in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights;
  • How Dickens Develops Suspense;
  • Satirical Description of Modern Society Through the Parties Held by Gatsby;
  • Impact of Jane Austen’s Novels on the Women’s Roles in English Society at the End of 18th and the Beginning of 19th Сenturies;
  • Depiction of Society and Family in the Works of Elizabeth Gaskell;
  • Motive of Betrayal and Its Consequences in Macbeth;
  • A Feminist Perspective on Shakespeare’s Famous Works;
  • Comparison between Victor and Prometheus in the Novel Frankenstein.

Plan Your Dissertation in Classic English Literature and Create an Outline

After you have chosen a topic and have completed the preliminary research, you need to determine your approach and come up with the working title. If you are not sure about your inquiry, you may create several working titles. Each of them may be with a slightly different emphasis. You should keep these titles in mind as you do research and choose the most appropriate one.
In terms of scope, your dissertation should be based on the analysis of at least two primary texts although there is no single rule for the number of text that must be included. When choosing text for analysis, you should take into account cultural, theoretical, and historical contexts and make sure they are sufficient for producing a substantial piece of work. But it’s also important to establish a focus to ensure that your topic is manageable within the required word count.

You need to create your research question that will guide your research and writing. You should always keep it in mind while working on your projects and do your best to answer it and explain why it’s important. After that, you have to plan your project and create a short outline (about 500 words), including a list of primary texts. You need to create plans of your chapters and their sections and explain what you are going to achieve in the given time.

Write Dissertation Chapters

The structure of a dissertation typically depends on the type of the project and the audience. In this guide, we’ll discuss the most common dissertation structure but you should discuss the structure you propose for your paper with your supervisor because your faculty may have its specific requirements. Each dissertation chapter should include specific information but sometimes you may combine two chapters, for example, the results and discussion. You may also organize your dissertation in classic English literature in the form of extended essay. For example, if analyze some literary texts, you can organize your chapters around different themes.


Each dissertation must contain an abstract of about 200-300 words. It’s a brief summary of the entire paper that’s why you should write it at the very end. An abstract should provide enough information so that your readers will be able to assess the content of your paper and decide whether it is worth reading. Here are some tips on what you should include in your abstract:

  • State your main topic and explain your aims and objectives;
  • Explain your methodology;
  • Give a summary of your findings/results;
  • State your main conclusions and provide recommendations if it’s appropriate.

Some people may only read the abstract of your dissertation so it’s crucial to get it right.


In this chapter, you need to set out the background for your research. Here is what you should include in the dissertation introduction.

  • Formulate the topic of your dissertation in classic English literature, providing a context to your work.
  • Determine the scope of the research by narrowing down the focus.
  • Speak about the existing research and show how your topic is relevant, by identifying the gap in the literature.
  • State the research question and tell about purpose of your study.
  • Briefly outline how your dissertation will be organized and tell what information you are going to include in each chapter.

Try to make the introduction engaging and clear. A good idea is to write this section last when you will be absolutely sure what you are actually introducing.

Literature Review

The goal of writing this chapter is to show your audience that you know very well how your research fills the gap in the existing literature. You need to critically evaluate and analyze each source relevant to your topic and show connections between them. That means you have to identify some common patterns, themes, or gaps. It’s important not just summarize the existing sources but to provide a logical argument that will help justify the need for your own study. Remember: you should write this chapter in a form of a discussion and not a description.


In the methodology chapter, you have to cover two essential questions:

  • How you will do your research;
  • Why you have chosen these methods.

You should provide specific details and exactly what you are planning to do and how you are going to do this. You may also speak about any obstacles that you had to overcome when conducting your research. You should report what you actually did and convince your readers that it’s the best approach to achieving your objectives and answering the research question.


In this section, you need to present the results of the study that you have carried out and summarize them. You have to organize the presentation of your findings in a logical and coherent way. You may structure this chapter around some themes, sub-topics or sub-questions. You should tell only about those findings that are relevant to your research question. Sometimes, you may include tables, charts, and graphs to visualize the results. But you should make sure that they don’t repeat the information that you have already written. Your visuals should provide additional information that adds value to the text of your dissertation in classic English literature.


As we have already mentioned, you may combine the discussion chapter with the results chapter. The discussion chapter analyses your findings from the perspective of your research question. Discuss what your findings mean and explore their implications. You should give detailed interpretation of what you have found. If you discovered some patterns that you have not expected to identify, you need to report about that as well. Besides, you need to offer some explanation why that happened. You should also speak about possible alternative interpretations and limitations of your study that may have affected the results.

Don’t make this chapter descriptive. You should apply analytic and critical thinking and analyze the results from the perspective presented in the literature review.


It’s the final chapter. In the conclusion, you have to answer the research question in a concise manner and ensure that your audience clearly understands the central argument of your dissertation in classic English literature. You should wrap everything up and reflect on what you actually did in your study and how you did it. You should highlight how your findings contribute to the existing knowledge and why they are important.


You need to make a list of all sources that you cited in the text of the dissertation in classic English literature. It’s important to make this section highly structured, using an alphabetical order by author and consistently follow a specific citation style, for example, MLA which is typically used in humanities, literature, and art.

Edit and Proofread the Draft of Your Dissertation in Classic English Literature

When you are planning your dissertation, you should leave enough time for revising your draft, editing, and proofreading. It’s impossible to write a perfect first draft so you should be ready to revise and rewrite your dissertation chapters several times. Your dissertation in classic English literature is a lengthy paper, so don’t expect that you’ll be able to edit it at once – you should do it in stages. You may chunk in chapters and sections (it’s easier to deal with smaller chunks) or chunk it editorially, revising for one type of mistakes each time.

First, you should check the logical flow and improve the text to ensure that all sections relate to each other. You should also check if every individual paragraph contributes to the overall argument and justifies its inclusion. Then you should reread your dissertation sentence by sentence and improve their structure and make sure that you use the precise words and the meaning of each sentence is clear to your readers.

After that, you should proofread your dissertation and fix spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors if there are any. Some people prefer to proofread while reading the text on the computer screen but a good idea is to use a printed copy and physically write proofreading marks. You should read your dissertation aloud because in this way, it’s much easier to notice mistakes. A good approach is to read the paper backwards – paragraph by paragraph or sentence after sentence. Finally, you should check your citations and make sure that there are no inconsistencies.

Now you know what steps to follow when working on your dissertation in classic English literature. As you see, it’s an arduous and time-consuming process. But it’s also a rewarding experience which deserves your time and effort. Moreover, everybody knows that practice makes perfect. So if you use our simple instructions and work hard, you are sure to complete a successful final paper and make a powerful impression on your committee.