Ideas for Literary Analysis Research Papers

Consider how the author's social situation affected his choice of subject matter.

There are many paths to take when approaching a literary analysis paper. Novels, poems and plays provide numerous themes, characters and plots for you to examine if you’re ready to commit to the research. By engaging the text of your chosen story, you may even reconsider your own perspectives on life, society and your sense of self.

1 Author's Influence

Discuss the ways in which the author’s life may have influenced the work of literature. For example, you can examine how Lewis Carrol’s religious affiliation and background as a logician and photographer influenced his famous works “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” These kinds of topics will require some extensive research into autobiographical and biographical works concerning the author.

2 Historical and Social Influence

Examine how historical events or social context influenced the book. For example, research how Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” examines the World War I from a German perspective. You can also compare the initial reception of the book to its current treatment by critics. You will find that certain works, including “All Quiet on the Western Front,” stirred controversy upon their original publication.

3 Imagery Analysis

If the work features reoccurring phrases, images or scenes, you can focus on how these elements add to the overall work. For example, explore how the frequent descriptions of the characters’ eyes add to the text of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” Imagery analysis can become especially useful when you are examining a work of poetry.

4 Character-Driven Analysis

The characters are the heart of literary works, so choose an interesting character and examine his motives and maturation throughout the text. For example, you can write about how you believe the protagonists of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” develop as the episodic plot moves along. When dealing with allegorical works, such as Nathanial Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” you can explore the symbolism behind the characters.

5 Compare with Other Works

If you’ve read other works by the same author, you can draw various comparisons between the works. For example, examine the similarities between the characters, plots and literary devices of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” and “Twelfth Night.” You can also compare works that explore similar themes, even if they don’t share the same author.

Mitch Reid has been a writer since 2006. He holds a fine arts degree in creative writing, but has a persistent interest in social psychology. He loves train travel, writing fiction, and leaping out of planes. His written work has appeared on sites such as and GlobalPost, and he has served as an editor for ebook publisher Crescent Moon Press, as well as academic literary journals.