Research-Based Literary Analysis; Or, Doing” Victorian Studies


Tips for success:
1. Formulate a research question to guide your investigation. We come to understand our world through questioning. Asking good questions, however, is a habit acquired over time. The modest research project you are about to undertake will give you practice formulating a question.
Here’s one formula for organizing ideas in order to pursue a research project effectively (from The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams):

I am trying to learn about/working on/studying________
because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how________
in order to help my reader understand how/why/whether________.

While this formula certainly doesn’t exhaust the possible avenues of exploration for a given topic, it does accomplish three key tasks that are essential to beginning a research project: 1) it identifies the topic, 2) it identifies a question related to the topic, and 3) it motivates the question by indicating why it might be important to your readers.
** Tip: The answer to this question will likely be your thesis statement!

2. Find two sources to use in the paper.
* One must be a primary source (i.e., another work by the same author; another work by a contemporary; a historical document from the time period; a theoretical/philosophical writing that you’d like to use to shed light on the text; a painting)
* One must be a secondary source (i.e., an article or book by a scholar who has studied the text and provided an interpretation)—here, go for something recent, within the last 10 years or so!
3. Write your paper. In this 4-6 page paper, your goal is to provide an interpretation of your chosen text that is enriched by your independent research. In your paper, you should do the following:
• Clearly articulate a thesis that responds to a research question and communicates your position;
• Support your position with evidence that you have gathered and synthesized, as well as your close reading of the chosen text;
• Introduce and respond to positions that are different from yours, and include rebuttal when necessary;
• Show a constant concern for clear and cohesive organization, which includes writing paragraphs with identifiable topic sentences and transitional sentences;
• Incorporate quotations, paraphrases, and summaries of research smoothly with proper citations;
• Display a solid grasp of MLA citation style and include a Works Cited page; and
• Use a consistent voice and style that reflects a “student expert” ethos.

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