Literature Research Paper Topics and Ideas

Topics and ideas
Posted on March 6, 2019

A research paper in literature is an assignment that will not leave you bored and indifferent. Here, you have an opportunity to pick a book that you like and share your opinion and findings of it with others. In your paper, you can focus on various topics, including the development or peculiarities of characters’ personalities, a primary message or theme of the writing or you can even concentrate on the examination of various literary techniques, templates of storytelling, or symbolic essence of the chosen literary piece. Besides, the research paper in literature also allows you to put an author in the first place by conducting your research on studying his or her biography and then correlating it to the topics from their oeuvre. Do not forget, however, that a research paper implies a thorough study of the subject and demands referencing to corresponding credible sources, which are connected directly to the origins of the theme you chose to study.

However, you should understand that it can be hard to add something new to researches of already established scholars, but you should also strive to make your point original since your perception of a book you read is unique. In your research paper, you ought to show a mindful insight and interpretation of the literary work.


With this in mind, consider the following topics for your literature research paper:

  1. Character’s Code of Life
    Code of life is something that defines values, beliefs, morals of a character. Choose a book that you like or that is in your curriculum and pick one character for analysis. Try to explain how that character conducts his or her life and how they see themselves in connection to the external world. Keep in mind that you have to provide textual evidence from the source.
  2. Artificial Language in Literature
    Fantasy and science fiction usually present entirely new languages developed by its authors, and this fact can pass for a great topic of your research. However, be sure that you are acquainted with or at least interested in linguistics before building your paper on studying languages. If you do, you can pick, for instance, J. R. R. Tolkien’s books as a source, and examine the elvish language by showing a correlation of it with English or other languages.
  3. Feminism in Literature
    Feminism in literature can be either vividly expressed or hidden between the lines. Think about whether you have ever noticed a tough or eccentric woman in the books you read; recall whether her behavior breaks the rules of the social standards depicted in the text. If yes, then try to explain what is uncommon about her character and why you consider it to be feminist. You should also pay attention to the author’s biography and the period in which the book was published since it can explain a lot.
  4. Modern Myth in Literature
    Actually, ancient myths are the representation of an ancient nation’s values just like the Greek epic is filled with heroic figures. There are also many modern myths that represent the values of today’s people. For instance, the American Dream is one of the modern myths that are common to literature, so you can focus on studying it in, for example, Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
  5. Archetypes in Literature
    Archetypes are the patterns of behavior and images that are rooted in the human unconscious and travel through centuries. For instance, the mother figure is a carrying, protective and selfless character that can be either actual mother to the protagonist or just a person who meets these qualities. There are many similar archetypes that you can find online and then distinguish and analyze them. Be sure, however, to support your research by referring to Carl Jung’s studies, since he was the particular scientist to develop this theory.
  6. Tricksters in Literature
    Trickster is a universal figure in literature, which will make your task interesting and entertaining. He is the one who breaks social conventions and disobeys standards of behavior. You can notice such character by his craving for pranks, cunning, and eccentricity. For instance, a king’s jester is in most cases a trickster. You should refer to credible sources when analyzing a figure of Trickster, such as Carl Jung and his study of the Trickster archetype.
  7. Hero’s Journey
    The hero’s journey is a common template used in literature, which is applied in fantasy quite often. It includes several stages of plot development, such as when the protagonist is called to adventures, faces challenges, experiences an inner transformation, and returns to the initial point. You can notice this template in “Harry Potter” books and many others of the same genre. In your research paper, try to compare each stage to the parts of the chosen book by bringing textual pieces of evidence.
  8. Metaphors in Literature
    Every successful writer ought to create unique ways of describing the surrounding world in his or her books, so they usually create unique metaphors that were never used before. Pick a book you like and try to find such parts in the text. You can analyze how accurately they are used, and how well they express the author’s thought.
  9. Dystopian Literature
    Dystopian literature is aimed at exploring the darkest parts of political and social structures. Frequently, in such book authors tend to allude to the existing but hyperbolized version of nations all over the world. George Orwell’s “1984” can serve as a perfect basis for your research. In your paper, try to draw connections between the fiction and the real world.
  10. Mythology in Literature
    Not only do writers create unique languages, but they also make up worlds and their mythologies. In fact, since in most cases authors are inspired by real-world history, they usually mix or transform existing mythologies. For instance, in this research paper, you can show a correlation between Celtic and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythologies.
  11. Philosophy in Literature
    Frequently, you can notice that famous philosophers such as Plato, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rene Descartes, and many others speak through the characters in the books you read, and this fact opens an opportunity for research. This topic, however, demands thorough knowledge of the subject and a lot of research. At first, you should pick a character or characters that tend to fall into philosophical ponders, and then strive to find the source of the paraphrased expression, if there is such.
  12. Psychological Disorders in Literature
    While trying to provide their characters with unique personalities, many authors tend to grace their personalities with various psychological disorders. The most used ones are post-traumatic stress disorder, the delusion of grandeur, and bipolar disorder. In your research, you can analyze how accurately a character’s behavior corresponds to the clinical manifestation of the disorder; you can take “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk as an example.
  13. Satire in Literature
    In literature, satire is usually used to ridicule the regime of a government, as it did George Orwell in “Animal Farm.” In this book, the author criticized the Soviet Union by using the animal personification of political figures and illustrated events from that time. If you decide to write a literature research paper on this topic, then you should define the target of satire and draw connections between real events and people, and the author’s creation.
  14. Iceberg Theory
    This theory was coined by Ernest Hemingway and implies that a story should have a hidden deeper meaning. You can choose, for instance, one or several Hemingway’s works, such as “Hills Like White Elephants” or “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” and strive to give meaning to the text that from the first sight can be seen to be plain. You should provide quotes from the book and explain how you have understood it.
  15. War in Literature
    The first and second World Wars had a critical impact on the writers of Lost Generation. The events of that time have significantly affected their worldview, and therefore their creations. Describe how the war is depicted in the book you choose, and strive to understand whether the author appeals to war or whether he or she stood against it. The most famous names of the Lost Generation are Erich Maria Remarque and Ernest Hemingway, the works of whom might be vital for your research.
  16. Holy Grail in Literature
    Holy Grail is a motif that came from a legend about King Arthur, and that symbolizes endless and pointless searches for the unworthy. In a story built on this template, a character or characters strive to achieve or find something, and it is either they experience inner changes and prove to be worthy, or they fail. In your research paper, you should describe the search for “Holy Grail” and, by refereeing to stories about the fellowship of the King Arthur, explain why the characters from your chosen book succeed or fail.
  17. Arthurian Melancholy
    Arthurian Melancholy is another template borrowed from legends about the King. This method of bookending implies both happy and tragic end of a story and thus creates the feeling of melancholy. J. R. R. Tolkien masterfully incorporated this template in his “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, since its ending was relieving and sad at the same time. For such a topic, you have to be acquainted with a credible source about King Arthur, like Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” to be able to compare it with a book you want to choose.
  18. Racism in Literature
    In their works, authors often argue against racism, present its nonsense through the prism of fantastic images, or even accidentally offend a certain group of people. For this topic, it is important to pay attention to the author’s biography and historical period in which the writing was published. Only after this, you will be able to explain what was the author’s true message and what were the prerequisites of his or her claims.
  19. Transformation of Human Personality
    The environment can have a huge impact on a character’s personality. In some cases, a hero can cross the horizon of despair and turn into completely another person or even a villain. Try to follow each step of a character’s development and comment of them. Explain what the reasons for a change were. “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, where the protagonist experienced an inner breakdown, might put you on the right track.
  20. Divine Intervention
    Divine intervention or “Deus ex-machine” is a tradition of unexpected and mysterious resolution of a particular problem that was started in ancient Greek drama. In fact, writers use it even nowadays, if there is no other way to resolve a conflict. However, it transformed and gained different manifestations. In your research paper, try to analyze moments from a book or books where the characters are saved or assisted by divine or supernatural forces. Explain how the tradition has changed through ages. You can also write whether this method is still valuable for writers or appreciated by readers.


As you might have mentioned, although a research paper in literature gives you a wide specter of choice and creative freedom, it also demands a thorough study of the subject under discussion. You have to both – read the chosen book attentively, as well as to be familiar with everything that your topic includes. For instance, if you want to analyze the relation of a character to a particular archetype, then you would better examine the studies of Carl Jung and reference them accordingly to provide credibility to your claims. Similarly, while exploring the similarities between an emotional ambivalence of the book-ending and the Arthurian melancholy, then you ought to be familiar with the literature devoted to this legendary British leader and cite your sources with due attention. Otherwise, it is likely that your claims will seem superficial or even inappropriate, and your research paper will fail to match the required instruction. That is why, to consider every critical point from the reading, you have to prepare your mind by studying theory and only then take on practice.


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