JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Literary Research Methods"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Alessandra Grego
EMAIL: [email protected]
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing

This is a one-credit course in research methodology and practices for the development of a thesis in English Literature. The course is intended for English literature majors in their penultimate term. Students will be introduced to the practicalities of thesis writing. Starting with the identification of a viable research topic, students will learn to articulate their research question/s, will identify and assess scholarly material to formulate a literature review, will engage with appropriate theoretical frameworks, and produce an annotated bibliography. Students will present and critique each other’s thesis proposal, research methodology and choice of material. They will also prepare an oral presentation of their proposed thesis topic. By the end of course students will possess the research foundations that will allow them to write their thesis.

The object of this course is to instruct English majors on how to prepare the preliminary material and begin their research so as to start their final term with the skills and knowledge of how to proceed to write the thesis. Because English majors are well used to writing research papers, this course focuses on preparation and organization of a more ambitious research project. The course takes place over 6 meetings at fortnightly intervals to allow the students enough time to prepare the required materials. Students will work under the instructor’s supervision to define a thesis topic, identify an appropriate theoretical approach and organize the material into chapters and will receive guidance through the production of an annotated bibliography and literature review.


Students will be guided through the process of assembling the necessary preliminary material to write an effective dissertation the following term. Students will learn how to articulate a research question and narrow a topic to a manageable size for an undergraduate dissertation; how to search for and interrogate critical sources; how to develop a thesis outline; how to write an annotated bibliography and a literature review. Students will also receive practical guidance on time management and organization, selection of first and second reader, and completion of thesis form. By the end of the course students will have completed the foundational aspects of their thesis research and will be poised to begin the writing under the guidance of their first reader. In the final class, they will submit a carefully edited portfolio of the materials assembled over the term. Finally, during the second week of the following term, the students will offer an oral presentation of their intended research to the English Department faculty and students.

By the end of the course students will be able to:

-    articulate a research question for an extended topic

-    identify appropriate sources for their research

-    compare sources to track trends in current research and evolution of theoretical approaches

-    write foundational research documents (annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, methodology assessments, etc.)

-    Locate their study within various theoretical frameworks

-    Apply literary/linguistic theory and methodology to their research

-    Use the research to develop a strong argument

-    Approach thesis readers with a solid plan for writing

-    Present the research to colleagues

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
MLA Handbook 8th editionModern Language Association of AmericaMLA 2016978-1603292627  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Research Shortcuts. Rev. ed.Judi Kesselman-Turkel and Franklynn Peterson. University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.978-0299191641 Ebook available from Frohring Library

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
How to Write Your Undergraduate Dissertation. 3rd edGreetham, BryanPalgrave Macmillan 2020 978-1352005226  Available from Frohring Library
Thesis Statement 20%
Preliminary Bibliography 20%
Annotated bibliograhy 20%
Literature Review 20%
Outline of thesis content 20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.




Major Assignment Due (shorter assignments TBA)

Meeting 1

Introduction - Choosing a topic, narrowing a focus, forming a research question, setting up a timetable.

Attend library sessions on Zotero, MLA Bibliography use and navigation.

Meeting 2

Present possible thesis statement.

Class on structuring ideas, theoretical approaches to topics, conducting research, source interrogation and evaluation.

Peer-review of thesis topics.

Selecting and approaching first and second readers

Thesis topic due – one paragraph only

Brief test on Zotero and its functions.

Meeting 3

Thesis topics reviewed and discussed

Identification of appropriate theoretical frame.

Creating an annotated bibliography

Preliminary Bibliography due (at least 12 sources at this stage)

First and second readers selected

Meeting 4

Discussion and review of thesis topics in view of research done for annotated bibliography.

Organizing material: division into thesis chapters.

What is a literature review?

Annotated Bibliography due: 5 sources

Meeting 5

Test on general knowledge of English Literature: questions on periodization, authors, genres, critical theory.

Literature Review due

Meeting 6

Final meeting: submission of portfolio

1 Thesis statement

2. Literature Review

3. Bibliography + 5 annotated sources

4. Preliminary content page

Oral presentation of thesis