How to Write a Proposal on Literary Analysis

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A proposal for literary analysis is sometimes required for college-level English courses. Your proposal should summarize the critical question you intend to pursue concisely, contextualizing your research in terms of the scholarly conversation in which it is taking place. It should also provide a provisional summary of your findings to date or a provisional thesis statement. Remember that the best exercises in literary analysis consider both the form and content of a literary text and how they interact with one another.

1 Contextualize your study

Contextualize your study in terms of the research that is already out there. This will require you to spend some time reading in the library. If you are working on a well-known author, try browsing the shelf of his works in your school library. You might be able to locate an edited volume that collects the most important essays on your subject. Also search for scholarly articles through your school library's online database. Remember that you are trying to give an overview of the major ideas about your writer or text that scholars have developed.

2 Give a concise account

Give a concise account of what question or questions you seek to answer and why this is important. Through your research, what gaps have you noticed in the scholarship? What issues have academics ignored up to this point? If you intend to study narrative perspective in "The Great Gatsby," it is not enough to state, "I intend to examine how Nick Carraway's ironic perspective leaves the reader ambivalent about Gatsby's heroism." Reformulate it to include context, for example, "While scholars have noted Nick Carraway's irony, they have neglected to consider how his limited perspective impacts the reader's relationship to Gatsby's heroism."

3 Provide a provisional answer to the questions

Provide a provisional answer to the questions you have already outlined. While a careful examination of your primary text will take place after your proposal has been approved, you should already be reading the text with an eye to formulating a thesis statement. Given the research and reading you have done, what do you think your argument will look like as it takes shape? What sections in your analysis do you anticipate having?

4 Provide some information

Provide some information about how you will proceed once your proposal has been approved. Are there areas of research that you think you will still have to undertake? Are there other books you need to read that you haven't gotten to yet? What problems do you anticipate popping up as you proceed?

David Coodin began working as a writer in 2005, and has been published in "The Walrus." He contributes to various websites, writing primarily in the areas of education and art. Coodin holds a Ph.D. in English literature from York University in Toronto.