All literature assignments can be roughly subdivided into research and non-research papers; however, many students seem to have trouble fully understanding the difference between them, so let’s clarify things a bit.
The scope of a non-research paper is limited to the text it deals with – it is all about this text, your writing abilities and your skills as the reader of the said text. Depending on how well you manage to analyze it, how well you are acquainted with literary theory, other works of the same author and the authors of the same period and so on, you will write a better or worse paper.
A research paper includes all this, but also much more. It covers all the discussions held about the text in question ever since it was written and many things that may not seem to be immediately relevant. In a sense, it is your contribution to a conversation between scholars that may have started long before you were born and won’t be over for centuries to come. You are not just the reader of the text, but also its historian, you study it not in isolation but in connection with other texts, historical period it was written it, the entire body of research about it and so on.
This boils down to the following: in order to write a research paper about a work of literature you have to study not just the text but also books and articles by many other people, and be ready for your own paper to be read and criticized by others. The very nature of an academic research paper presupposes it being reviewed by peers, so you should write it while keeping in mind potential counter-arguments and objections. This literature research paper guide will help you learn how to do it.
One of the primary purposes of literature research papers is to teach you how to think independently and carry out your own research as a part of scholarly community. As a result, you will usually not be limited in your freedom of choice when it comes to selecting topics. Even if the assignment seems to be pretty rigid to begin with, usually you can discuss it with your instructor and arrange for something a bit more convenient. Here are some useful principles you should follow when making your choice:
You should end up with a topic that has a number of specific characteristics:
Here are some examples that can help you get the right idea:
Your thesis statement contains the general point of your paper confined in a single sentence. Sometimes two sentences, but if you need more space to give the reader the idea of what is most important in your research paper, you probably spread yourself too thin and have to make your writing more focused.
Make sure you understand that you not just state the topic of your paper here, as thesis statement is quite different from it. A topic is the area you research, it is what you study, there may be no two minds about what you write here. A thesis statement states what you try to prove in your writing. For example, The Image of a Dystopian Society in George Orwell’s 1984 is a topic. However, a thesis statement for the paper with such topic would be “George Orwell’s 1984 lies at the foundation of the entire modern genre of dystopian science fiction and has a greater influence on it than any other single work”.
When writing your thesis statement, make sure to keep to these ideals:
Any literature research paper is based on two types of sources: your primary text (the one your paper is about) and secondary sources of information (critical works, research papers from peer-reviewed journals, books and so on). The primary text you have in front of you from the very beginning, and a significant portion of your quotations and references should come from it. As for secondary sources, you should find them – and the best way to do so is to use tools specifically designed for that purpose.
Academic search engines like Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search, EBSCO, JSTOR and many others can be of enormous help, especially if you don’t know much about the topic of your research. They not only help you find dozens of relevant sources of information on your chosen topic in a matter of minutes, but also provide all the data necessary to define their relative value (where they have been published, how many times they have been referred to in other peer-reviewed papers, have their authors written other works on similar topics and so on).
Before choosing any work as a source, go through the following checklist:
Simply put, an outline is a plan of your paper. How you write it fully depends on your preferences: it may be as detailed or as superficial as you are comfortable with. You may do with a few words covering the most important points of every segment or write detailed subplans for each stage of your paper. Just make sure you write down everything you are going to need so that you don’t forget anything when the time comes.
How you write is a matter of your style and your approach to work, but some principles are universal and should be followed by all students.
Many students believe that once the last line is written, their work is finished; or at least that they’ve done with the biggest part of their assignment. However, to write an outstanding research paper, you should pay as much attention to revision and proofreading as you did to the rest of your work combined – it is the part of your job that can make or break you.
Give yourself some time for the paper to settle down in your mind before you start proofreading. Then go over it with this checklist in hand:
If your paper holds up under the barrage of such questions, you may be reasonably sure that it doesn’t need significant changes. However, it may be a good idea to ask somebody else to read it and give their independent opinion.
We hope that the next time you have to write a literature research paper you will be better equipped thanks to these literature research paper writing tips – make sure to follow them closely!