How to write a literary research?

Steps in Doing Literary Research

1. Select a topic. This pertains to the selection of the author and the aspect or element of his or her work that you want to study.   Some of the literary topics could be a discussion of the work’s characters if they are realistic, symbolic or historically-based; a comparison and contrast of different authors or characters in a work; a reading of a work based on a literary approach or theory outside philosophical perspective, e. g. how would a Freudian read Hamlet?; a study of the sources or historical events that occasioned a particular work, e.g. comparing G.B. Shaw’s Pygmalion with the original Greek myth of Pygmalion;  an analysis of a specific image occurring in several works, e.g the use of moon as imagery in certain plays, poems, novels; a “deconstruction” of a particular work, e.g.  unfolding an underlying racist worldview in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, among others.

2. Prepare the research questions/objectives. A researcher has to be clear about what he/she wants to achieve in the whole research undertaking. This will provide direction to the study, as well as the information necessary to determine the appropriate methodology.

3. Make a research hypothesis or assumption. In a literary research the hypothesis or assumption is important as well, but unlike a quantitative research like experimental or correlational research where the hypothesis can either be accepted or rejected, the literary researcher is not encouraged to commit too much too soon to the hypothesis at hand since this may change as the research progresses.

4. Prepare the methodology. In this section, the literary researcher underscores the needed elements to address the research questions.  This includes the identification of authors to be studied, their texts to be analyzed, procedures or stages of the literary research, among others.  Since the selection of materials is a significant aspect in any literary research, it is labeled under steps of literary research and not just a component of the methodology part.

5. Select Materials. In selecting the materials for literary research, make sure that you have built your bibliography.  This includes the selection of a few good articles about the author and his/her work.  Include the reviews made by literary critics of a particular work.  Other things to consider are the following:

  • Identify the text/s to analyze
  • Select the biographies and biographical   materials to include in the study (e.g. letters)
  • Select the bibliographies of secondary sources
  • Identify annotated bibliographies, for books or articles
  • Make a list of important works with evaluations as to which are most important, canonical, widely read and accepted

6. Prepare the findings of the study. In this section, the researcher answers the research questions and addresses the hypothesis of the study.

7. Write the research report. A research report must not only answer the research questions and objectives but also follow the conventions of writing. Having said this, the researcher ensures that the final report is well edited and proofread to adapt to the required style and format of the publisher.


1. Topics to be explored. Research in Literature may include the study in translation. In doing this type of research, the author may explore the following translation studies:

  • Issues and problems in translation from one language to another language or from one literary form to another literary form
  • Evaluation of the language used in translation
  • The universal appeal of the translation

2. Three phases of translation. Another thing to consider in translation research is the process of translation itself.  The translation of a literary text undergoes phases to that the translated material will remain faithful to the original text.  These phases include:

  • Preparation for translation – a literary material to be translated well has to be fully understood by the translator.  The translator must understand the basic and the whole point of the text as well as its nuances. Hence, before a translator can begin translating the text, (s)he must be in full grasp of the circumstances- political, social, among others internal and external to the text.  It is also important that the translator has a clear interpretation of the text at hand.
  • Actual translation – in doing the actual translation,  the translator needs to have a theoretical grounding to support the manner and processes employed in the actual translation.  This is important in setting a clear direction in the translation process
  • Addressing issues – in translating a literary text certain issues must be addressed.  One of these is the occurrence of words that have no equivalent in the target language.  Another is the literary and writing style of the author as opposed to the writing style of the translator.  Next is the use of expressions for thoughts and concepts as well as idiomatic expressions which may not have any equivalent or counterpart in the target language.  Next is the tendency to alter the word order, structure among others in the course of translation. Finally, the danger of having a literal translation.
  • Evaluation of the Translation – Any translated material must undergo an evaluation process to ensure its faithfulness to the original text.  To effect this, a translator needs to develop or adopt a rubric which will serve as a guide in determining the quality of the translated material.   The evaluation of the translated material also includes the assigning of inter-raters to evaluate the quality of the translation.  In selecting the inter-rater certain criteria have to set by the researcher.  These criteria wholly depend on the type of material being studied.

3. Application of Translation Methods – These translation methods are used to address issues in translation and to ensure the faithfulness of the translated material to the original text.   Some of the translation methods are:

  • Word-for-Word Translation – This is the literal translation which is used to translate the words in their most common meaning.  This method is used usually for the initial phase in translation.
  • Meaning-based Translation – this method gives the highest priority to the meaning and form of the original, and is appropriate to translations of source texts that have high status. It retains the aesthetic value of the translated texts. It is both semantic and communicative in nature.

Classroom Research

One of the challenges for language and literature teachers in this information age is to be active contributors to knowledge in an academic setting.  In academic institutions, from elementary to tertiary, teachers are encouraged, and at some degree, are expected to undertake small-scale research. This small scale research is often focused on the classroom interaction where the teacher-researcher is a significant member.

Although the methods used in classroom research resembles those used in other types of researches,  classroom research can be considered distinct because it focuses on issues and concerns of a specific classroom.  Hence, classroom research addresses a specific learning concern in the classroom setting.

Methods of classroom research

Classroom research can be done using the following methods:

  • Methods comparison studies – this is probably the best-known classroom studies employing the experimental method.  This seeks to evaluate the relative claims of different methods by randomly assigning students to two different groups and providing differential instruction to these groups. At the end of the research period, all students are tested to determine which of the two competing methods is more effective.
  • Stimulated recall – is a technique in which the researcher records and transcribes parts of a lesson and then gets the teacher to comment on what was happening at the time that the teaching and learning took place. This technique yields insights into the processes of teaching and learning which would be difficult to obtain by other means.
  • Observation schemes – these schemes are used to document classroom interaction. However, the information generated from these schemes are extremely limited but very much focused on a particular point of view or perspective.
  • Interactional analysis – This involves the discursive analysis of classroom talk. This focuses on the thematic structures and activity schemes. The analysis of classroom activities covers (1) activity type, (2) participant organization, (3) content, (4) student modality, and (5) materials.  It also includes the language used in the classroom, specifically the use of a target language, information gap, sustained speech, reaction to code or message, incorporation of preceding utterances, discourse initiation, and relative restriction of linguistic forms.

The focus of classroom research

  • Classroom processes – this involves the systems observed and administered by the teacher in the classroom to affect learning and understanding
  • Classroom interaction – this focuses on the type of talk observable inside the classroom
  • Classroom instruction – this centers on the teaching styles of the teacher, selection of materials, use of teaching methodologies and strategies, along with the students’ response to the initiatives of the teacher.
  • Classroom assessment – this looks into the assessment and testing done in the classroom using both teacher and expert made tests and assessment tools.