Organize A Literary Research Paper

You’ll do a lot of reading while organizing and writing your literary research paper.

If you are an English or literature major, you can plan on writing several literary research papers during your academic career. Literary research papers are papers that make an argument and have several standard elements, including a thesis statement, introductions, background information, an analysis or argument, a conclusion and a list of sources.


1. Write a thesis statement that is worthy of debate. This is the core of what you will be presenting and arguing in your literary research paper. It should not be state an obvious point or one that is merely factual. Instead, you have to have a statement that you can make a persuasive case for in your paper. For example, a strong thesis statement could read, “Speculative fiction loses its literary value once technology surpasses the suppositions in the novel.” Another example would be, “David Mamet’s cynicism erects a barrier between playgoers and performers.” In both cases, these sentences express an arguable statement that goes beyond a recounting of facts. In both, the opposing arguments could also also be argued, which offers a means of comparison for the research paper.

2. Create an outline. You don’t have to follow all the official rules of an outline (unless you have to turn it in as part of the assignment), but list of what you want to include and the order that you want each element in the report.

3. Write the introduction. Refine your thesis statement based on the evidence you uncovered in your research. Catch your reader’s attention with your introduction and provide a narrow view of the subject based on what you plan to write.

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4. Write a background section. This will include the relevant historical and literary context without going into exhaustive detail. Depending on your topic, provide biographical information about the author or an explanation of literary styles or events that influenced the literature you are researching.

5. Write the analysis of your topic. This section is the core of your essay. It breaks your thesis down into sub-topics and makes arguments for each idea, presenting the evidence in a logical and clear fashion. It is important that you use evidence and secondary sources as support for the arguments that you are making. The evidence helps you form your argument, but it is also used primarily to back up your original thoughts and arguments.

6. Write your conclusion. The conclusion summarizes the arguments you made in your analysis and restates your thesis statement in a way that summarizes it in a more comprehensive sense. Express your conclusion directly and with confidence. You might also add future implications for research based on the arguments you and/or other researchers have suggested in your paper.

7. List all the sources you used in your literary research paper in a References section. This should be the final page of your paper.