Skip to main content

Research Paper Topics in Literature

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

I have had a lifelong passion for reading and writing and graduated with a bachelor's in English literature.

Research topics are just as endless as the amount of books in the largest library.

Research topics are just as endless as the amount of books in the largest library.

Research Topics for Papers

Literature Research Paper Topics

This is not the first time I have written on the topic of research topics in English literature. However, it seems that, for many desperate researchers out there, a guide to finding the right topic is not what they are looking for, they need a list of topics to get them started, which is understandable since finding just the right research topic can be pretty difficult. With endless possibilities and a deadline just around the corner, it is no wonder that you have turned to Google for a little inspiration and advice on how to get the perfect paper topic.

If I could sit and write every single research topic on literature down, I would be here quite literally forever. Research topics can be about just about anything. As long as it is related to your particular area of study, it should be guaranteed to be the right topic for you. Literature comes from all different countries, genders, time periods, etc. Furthermore, they cover different messages concerning issues such as race or other politics or simply reflect the ideals of the times they are written in.

The best advice I ever received was from one English literature professor who said to always choose a research paper topic you are actually interested in. It can be difficult to come up with a research topic on any type of literature when left without a specific prompt or guidelines but, as long as you go with whatever strikes your fancy, actually getting the darn thing written can be relatively easy when you actually care about your research topic.

Here are a list of potential research topics in literature to give you some inspiration for your own or help you get started on your own paper.

Literary Devices Research Topics

One potential research topic in literature is a focus on literary devices within the novel(s) of your choice. For example, you could focus on one specific literary term and how it was used differently in two novels. Analyzing two books in one essay is one sure way to guarantee a good long essay and can be really fascinating, especially if the two seem completely different yet share qualities not immediately evident, such as similar uses of imagery or symbolism. On the other hand, a great research paper topic can also come from two novels that are very similar but have distinct qualities that set them apart.

Some additional examples of research topics in literature that focus on literary devices include:

  • Discuss and analyze the allegory of the novel(s) you have chosen to focus research on. For example, how does Robert Lewis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reflect man's struggle to contain primal instincts?
  • Focus on a character or two within the novel and find connections based on the character's history. What are we told about this character? What does the author leave out? What does this character's journey/experiences teach the reader?
  • What are some major uses of imagery within the novel? How are they connected and what is their significance to the story?

It can be easy to focus on a simple literary device as your research topic for a literature paper but remember that, no matter how simple the device can be, as long as your thesis is interesting enough to grab and hold the reader's attention, it is a topic worth writing about. Make sure it fascinates you too, since it is hard to hide your own passion within your writing, which is something readers will grasp and appreciate.

Even the oldest books can inspire new ideas for research paper topics in literature.

Even the oldest books can inspire new ideas for research paper topics in literature.

Literature Research Paper Topics on History

Whether your novel discusses times long gone or comes from decades or even centuries ago, discussing the historical time period or events the novel focuses on, is set in, or comes from can be a great research paper topic in literature. While a biography of the author may be an interesting read, taking their personal life and connecting it to your favorite novel can be even more fascinating research topic and add more to the novel for the reader than initially meets the eye.

Here are additional examples of research paper topics in literature that focus on history:

  • How do the characters reflect the ideals of the time? For example, how does Samuel Richardson's heroine in Pamela reflect the ideals of female chastity?
  • Is the novel historically accurate? Explain how it is or how it is not. If it is not, this can be an especially fascinating research topic in literature.
  • Was this novel written during a major historical event? How is this reflected in the novel? Sometimes a piece of literature does not directly speak about the events going on at the time but can be a reflection nonetheless. Was the writer a recent WWI vet? Did they protest the current war or aim to promote conservative ideals?

Novels can help promote ideas and even take a major place in history as something radical or thought provoking. Books that have been or currently are banned are a great place to look for potential novels to focus on.

Best Paper Topics

A pen, pencil, sticky notes, and highlighter are handy tools for researching for a paper.

A pen, pencil, sticky notes, and highlighter are handy tools for researching for a paper.

Literature Research Paper Topics on Genre

I particularly enjoy studying different genres in literature but there are plenty out there that I dislike. For example, for a literature class focused on realism, we were asked to come up with our own research paper topic. I dreaded the idea of writing a minimum thirty pages on a novel I disliked. However, taking the advice mentioned earlier from another professor, I came to a solution, which was to compare one novel from realism with another from one of my favorite genres, Gothic literature. This ended up being one of my favorite essays during my college years and I actually enjoyed every minute of writing and research for it.

Here are a few more examples of literature research paper topics focused on genre:

Scroll to Continue
  • How did this genre emerge? Why? Who were the major writers within this genre?
  • Compare two genres that seem completely different, yet share similarities not immediately evident.
  • What genre does the particular novel of your choice come from? Does it argue against another distinct genre? Why?

Literature Paper Writing Tip

Another important tip to remember when writing a paper focused on literature is to avoid summarizing as much as possible. Summaries are boring to read, especially if your audience has already read the book. Plus, they can sometimes lead you off track. Remember that the most important aspect of a research paper is actually sharing all that research and the points you wish to make.

Research Topics in Literature

Research topics in literature can be difficult to come by. The very best advice, which I have already mentioned at least twice and must reiterate once more, is that your research paper topic should be on something you find interesting. The literature topics you actually care about tend to make the best papers because that passion for it shows through and captures readers much more than a forced interest ever would.

There are a few guidelines that can help guarantee choosing a research paper topic in literature that you are passionate about. Here are a few additional tips to help you get started on a great literature topic that won't bore you and make the paper-writing process torture:

  • A focus on your favorite book (or even a book you strongly dislike)
  • A book by your favorite author
  • A book with your favorite (or least favorite) character of all time
  • Literature within your favorite genre
  • Literature within your favorite time period
  • A historical event that particularly interests you
  • A political stance you share strong feelings with the author about (or strongly disagree with the author about)
  • A new aspect of literature you have yet to explore and want to learn more about

Please feel free to share any additional ideas on research paper topics in literature in the comments below. Good luck!

© 2013 Lisa


Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on December 25, 2019:

Getting started can be the hardest part sometimes. Your article brought back memories of renting an electric typewriter, staying up half of the night, and turning papers in that were finished at the last minute. LOL Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Junroy on November 11, 2017:

Thank you for this article because the clouds in my mind is now gone,I had been struggled to look for a topic for my literary research in literature but this article is very understandable to read on how to start my research.

Gracias ma'am.

hf on November 08, 2017:

that was such a great articular

Fathima on June 28, 2017:

Thank you so much... these tips have helped me a lot... I have been going through sleepless nights trying to figure out how to put together all that runs through my head... And I found solutions through your articles... May God Bless You.

Firoz from India on June 14, 2013:

Useful for research students. Keep sharing. Voted up.

Related Articles