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What Makes a Good Literature Paper?

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One of the greatest challenges for all English language majors and writers is literature paper writing. Discussing someone’s work in a critical manner and analyzing plot, characters, and ideas associated with that particular work is more difficult than it seems. For example, sometimes you have to discuss some specific aspect related to some literary work, but you aren’t sure whether you understood it. Before you give up and convince yourself that you and your paper are doomed you should remember that writing (any kind of writing) is a skill that constantly develops. The more you write, the better you will be. To make sure you write a good literature paper, this article provides guidelines that you will find beneficial.

Determine one main point

Before you even start writing your literature paper you have to determine the main point that will be discussed throughout the work. Remember, having more arguments is confusing for both you and the reader. Throughout your paper, you will have to specify why your argument is valid which is why you should keep that in mind before determining the main point. The main point should be revealed in the introduction.


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State your thesis statement

Good literature paper requires specific thesis statement that reveals your perspective. Thesis statement has to be debatable. It has to make reader want to agree or disagree with you.

Example: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a great American novel about adventures of Huck Finn.

Why is this thesis statement wrong? Thesis statement merely describes the plot, states the obvious, and isn’t debatable.

Revision: Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that in order to find the true expression of democratic ideals in America, one must abandon “civilized” society and go back to nature.

Why is this statement better? It presents an interpretation of a famous literary work based on analysis of the content. Furthermore, this thesis statement is debatable. Some readers will, definitely, agree while others will oppose which is the main purpose of literature paper.

What topics to discuss?

In situations where you have the freedom to discuss any aspect of some literary work you’d like, the best thing to do is to choose topic that originates from your own reading and perception of the work. Choose to approach the work from different angles and topic will, practically, reveal itself. If you need inspiration, below you can see different topics you can write about:

  • Discussion about characters – are they symbolic, realistic, historically-based? Why is that particular character (or of them) important for the overall story?

  • Discussion of different choices that character and author of the work make

  • Economic, social, political context of the work

  • Symbolism etc.

Use both the Internet and library for research

Researching is important part of composing a literature paper. It is like writing “ordinary” essay, you have to get informed about subject, find info you can include. But, when discussing literary work you have to research scholar analysis to get a better insight into the story.

However, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of library as well. While internet doesn’t focus on scholarship, libraries have excellent choices of essays and scholarly books that can help you. Ideally, you should combine both internet and library into your research.

Using info you find

First, bear in mind that everything you find regarding analysis of some literary work serves to aid you in proving your point. This means that 90% of your literature paper should be consisted of your thoughts and perspective while info or quotes you find serve to support your idea and link to it.

Format

Generally, MLA (Modern Language Association) format is used to write literature papers. Every type of information or quote you use, you have to add reference to it. This is what makes your paper professional. Reliability is proven by adding sources e.g. Endnotes in MS Word. Also, all pages should have your full name and page number in top right corner. People usually assume it’s enough to add full name on the first page and overlook Header and Footer option in MS Word that automatically adds your name and page number to every page.

Luckily, there are many websites where you can download MLA-style template and use them to write your work.


Read more Types of essays articles:


Don’t forget

  • Name author and title of the work you will discuss in introduction

  • Don’t write about yourself or people you know, focus on the literary work you have to analyze

  • Don’t use “I”

  • Write in present tense like the story is already developing at this very moment

  • Don’t make a point without supporting it with example from the discussed work

  • Don’t summarize the text, analyze it. There’s a fine line between these two actions which means you have to be extra careful.


Writing literature paper requires research, critical thinking and analysis of a certain work. Remember, it is easy to stray from the subject and restore to summarizing it instead of analyzing characters and actions. Tips from this article can help you stay on the right track and improve your essay writing.

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