How to Do a Research Paper on a Short Story
Whether you are writing a research paper on a short story for a high school or college level class, the process of researching the story is essentially the same, though an instructor in a college course will likely expect more. Read the short story thoroughly, making notes when necessary, before you begin researching it. Creating your research paper allows you to explore more about the short story and present that information to your reader.
Read any handout or notes that you have taken on the specific requirements for the research paper you will be writing. Take special note of the word/page count required as well as the type of works cited page required, both in terms of format as well as how many sources you must have. You should also note if your instructor asks for a particular number of primary sources in addition to secondary sources. Determine how many, if any, of your sources can be from websites.
Find a quiet place to read, and reread, the short story you have been assigned. Take detailed notes as you read.
Look for reviews of the story you will be writing about. You should be able to locate several different reviews on the story in your campus or local public library. While you can find reviews of many short stories online, make certain that any online resource you use to assist you in writing your research paper is a credible source. Generally, academic sources are credible. Reference libraries that provide access to sources like Proquest and MUSE are useful when conducting research, but you may need a university ID number to access these types of online resources.
Study the reviews carefully. Often times you will find annotations below the actual text where an authority will offer definitions as well as insight on what a particular line or passage means. Generally, a scholar on the author and work itself will also explain the text in a broader context, drawing conclusions as to where the author drew inspiration from others' works, or in developing a particular character or the overall theme of the story itself.
Write your paper using the references you selected to support the statements you want to make in your research paper. Also use your own notes to remind you of observations you made when reading the story.