Definition: A literary research paper is a compilation and interpretation of factual materials and
of critics’ opinions on a specific subject in a literary work. Since the selection of materials is
filtered and processed by the writer, the paper reflects the author’s views also; hence, it is both
objective and subjective in content. Because the paper expresses the writer’s opinions, s/he must
find a topic of interest from a work that s/he has read and examined.
1. Select a topic related to a poem, short story, play, or novel that you have read.
Note: The work which is under study is called the primary source; the critical and
historical references are called secondary sources.
2. Write a tentative thesis to establish your purpose for research. This is what you are
trying to support. After some reading, you may need to refine your thesis statement.
3. Prepare a working bibliography—a list of available sources.
• Consult books of literary criticism, the MLA International Bibliography, and other books
and periodicals related to your subject and author.
• If your topic is current, check the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. In addition,
remember that much information is available on computer. Microfiche catalogs have
replaced the card catalog in most libraries. Microforms contain information on a screen.
• Make copies of information that you think is pertinent.
4. Take notes. There are two methods of note-taking: index cards and highlighting your
copies. Select the one that works better for you unless instructed otherwise. If you select to
use highlighting, use a different color highlighter for each topic within your subject
(comparable to main points on the outline).
5. Make an outline using the information assembled from the notes.
6. Write a rough draft inserting parenthetical citations within the text unless instructed
otherwise. This method of acknowledging sources has replaced footnotes and end notes
because it is immediately accessible to the reader. Use guidelines from The Modern
Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (MLA), or some other
source as assigned, for citations and works cited.
7. Write a Works Cited (bibliography) following MLA guidelines or any other reference
8. Lay the paper aside; proofread later.
9. Write the final copy.
10. Proofread the final copy.
Research Paper Guidelines
Notice that no correct number of letters or numbers exists; the only determining factor is the number of
need to make for the required length of your paper.
A. Background information connecting the reader to the subject
B. Thesis statement
II. First Main Point
A. First subpoint
1. Supporting example or detail—either your insight or a critic’s comment
paraphrased or directly quoted
Never start a sentence with a quote that you have not introduced.
a) First comment on support
b) Second comment on support
2. Supporting example or detail (your comment on supporting detail from a
a) First comment
b) Second comment
B. Second subpoint
1. Supporting example or detail
2. Supporting example or detail
C. Third subpoint (same as A, B above)
At this point continue with D, E... if needed
III. Second Main Point
A. First subpoint—Comment on subpoint (only one comment on this detail)
As in the above example, use a dash after a point if it is followed by only one detail or comment.
B. Second sub point
1. Supporting example—only one comment on this example: hence use the
dash, not an a by itself
2. Supporting example
Continue with the same sequence alternating numerals and letters until you have completed
outlining all of your material.
IV. Critical Thinking Section
A. Incorporate reactions to the source materials
B. Include insights about the research topic
C. Synthesize critical thinking threads
Affirm that the thesis has been proven
Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman).
Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast
enough that they are recognizable one from another. The font size should be 12 pt.
Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by
Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that
you use the Tab key as opposed to pushing the Space Bar five times.
Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half
inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you
omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
Use italics throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely
necessary, providing emphasis.
If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page.
Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).
Formatting the First Page of Your Paper
Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested.
In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the
course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in
quotation marks; write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you
would in your text: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in
"After Apple Picking"
Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a
space with a page number; number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4,
etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or
other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page.
Always follow instructor guidelines.)
Purchase answer to see full