How to Write Literature Research Papers

How to Write Literature Research PapersIsn’t it scary when you jerk awake in class after hearing the words, “…and this research paper due by the end of the month will constitute 40% of your class grade…”

It may seem that the end of the world is near [you can hope right?]. You can spend the rest of the term praying for divine intervention or you can be proactive. Actually try to do a paper you will be proud of once completed. Yeah right you think that will be the day. Yet, following a simple structure in terms of writing a paper for class will ensure you get a grade you can be proud of-whether it’s an ‘A’ or a ‘C’.

Personally, I’d aim for an ‘A’, my brother, he’d be happy with a ‘C’. So depending on your own path of glory you may choose to do as much or as little as needed. For both scenarios, you have to follow the same path but quoting Frost, the person who takes, ‘…the one less travelled…made all the difference.’
So, whether it is a college literature class or a high school English class, a research paper basically follows the same rules in terms of writing.

The Steps to Writing a Passable Literature Paper

  • Create the Title Page. This should include your name, title of the paper, and the name of the institute along with the teacher/professors name.
  • Create a Topic: Some teachers are kind enough to hand you the topic. All you have to do is Google it and, reword the paper you find. Others are crafty enough to be vague. This is where you have to really think and, come up with a topic original enough to get a passing grade. I recommend going to CliffNotes.com. It has a simplistic breakdown to every Literature topic under the sun and, will ensure you find one that you can write on.
  • Thesis: This is the hardest part of writing a research paper. Personally I write the thesis at the very end, it’s a form of cheating, I know, but will make life so much easier. So if you are writing a research paper on Robert Frost’s ‘Road Less Travelled’, simply go to Cliff Notes find the summary, use the topic you find easiest to understand like, ‘Use of Imagery’ and start writing.
  • Finding Sources: This is the most essential part of the paper. Finding sources. Some teachers specify they want literature reviews or journals as your sources, some even specify the types and, number of sources. First go online and, search for the sources. This is how you do it, type your topic and, the required source: ‘Robert Frost journal review”. I will get results that are from journal reviews and, can use them as needed.
  • Research: Conduct the necessary research. Use Google or your library and, once you have identified the sources you are going to use, go through them to extract the relevant information. What you do not understand, sites like Cliff Notes and, Spark Notes will help you garner.
  • Introduction: Every teacher loves an introduction. It makes them think you actually listened to the dry and, dull background they gave you before launching into the equally dry lecture on the topic at hand. Again, go to Cliff Notes, read the biography and, reword the text as needed.
  • Start Writing: Here is the toughest part. Sure I can say start writing, but it isn’t easy for everyone. So again, go to Cliff Notes, or any of the journals/sources you need and, find the topic you are writing on, and reword. Here is how. This is taken verbatim from Cliff Notes:

“Robert Lee Frost, New England’s cherished poet, has been called America’s purest classical lyricist and one of the outstanding poets of the twentieth century. Although he is forever linked to the stone-pocked hills and woods of New England, he was born in San Francisco, California, on March 26, 1874.”

Here is what I would write:

Robert Frost was born on March 2 in the year 1874, in San Francisco, California. A classical poet, he wrote mostly on the natural beauty of the hills and, woods of New England [Author Unknown, 2012].

You see I rephrased the words already written, no originality at all. Then I quoted the source to ensure I am not accused of plagiarism. The whole paper would continue in the same way.

Give Sources: Always quote your source. This ensures that you do not inadvertently plagiarize and, also gives your teacher the nonsensical belief that you actually went through a lot of resources to get your paper done. Write them in the format requested, APA/MLA. Below is the APA style reference.
Author Unknown [2012], Robert Frost, American Poets of the 20th Century, Cliff Notes by John Wiley & Sons.

Divide the paper into different sections. You should have an introduction, then sub-titles as needed. For my paper on Frost I would have the following sections:

  • Introduction/Thesis
  • Symbolism
  • Imagery
  • Word Play
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Complete the paper. Once you have written the paper, go through it and, ensure the grammar and spellings are correct. You are now ready to hand the paper in.

Writing an Exceptional Literature Research paper

So what is the difference between writing a passable research paper and, an exceptional one? A good question but, read on only if you can think on your own, are not afraid of hard work and, can actually [gasp!] write.

An exceptional research paper will depend on your analytical skills and, your drive to achieve more than the mediocre. You will have to do all of the steps listed above and, then the following:

Three Additional Steps to making your Literature Paper Exceptional

A. Listen to the lectures in class and take notes. Yup, sad as it is that is the first step. Teachers usually have some insight into the topic they are lecturing on. Find the key to their passion and, make a note.

B. If the lecture your teacher gave was on Robert Frost and, she/he spent most of the class talking about how Frost wrote about fate and, destiny chances are she/he is passionate about that aspect of Frost’s writing.

So if you made a note of that and came up with a topic like, “Ambiguousness of Frost’s poems in terms of Fate” Or “Demystifying the role of Fate in Frost’s Poem ‘The Road less Travelled’ you will have the chance to get an A.

  • Research more than just Spark Notes: If you want to use Cliff Notes or Spark Notes as the basis of your paper then read about what I wrote on writing a ‘passable paper’. If you want to stand out of the crowd, you have to do the research. You have to create a mind blowing thesis by analyzing the data you are reading, and then you have to fine tune it. Once you have a very specific idea, take a step towards writing the paper.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion has to be strong. It is this paragraph that will tie the whole paper together. Something benign like, ‘…that is why the poem Road Less Travelled is ambiguous’ will not have an effect. Rather, you need something compelling. Words can be your greatest friend or foe, so write something like, “…the choices people make in life are at times deliberate, and at times a mere reaction to the events playing out around them. Standing at crossroads, Frost decided that he had to take the road more travelled as he did not have time, yet, was that fate or free will. To me choices are a combination of both free will and, fate. He was fated to come to the crossroad at a time, when he had no choice but to take the road well travelled…”

There is no right or wrong Literature Research Paper:

Teachers want to hear what you have to say, what you think, and what you understand from the readings. There is no right or wrong answer. That is the best part about a Literature paper compared to paper on say; Physics.

Students can write what they think, what they believe and, what they conclude. They can back up their thoughts from sources and, that is how you can write a passable or exceptional literature paper.

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