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COURSE NAME: "Literary Research Methods"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Shannon Russell
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 7:30 PM 8:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite:EN 110 with a grade of C or above. This class carries one credit.

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.
Students meet to develop their thesis topics over the semester along with their research skills, their annotated bibliography and their literature review, so that they are adequately prepared to begin writing their thesis in the subsequent semester. The course culminates with a public oral presentation of their thesis project. During this presentation they are expected to get feedback from their professors and peers which they can use to further fine tune their thesis project.


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 


Thesis statementStudents must devise a clear and concise thesis statement which clearly outlines the aims of the project.10%
Preliminary Bibliography 20%
Annotated Bibliography 20%
Literature Review 20%
Outlines of thesis content  20%
First draft of Powerpoint presentation to be given in the subsequent semesterStudents should produce the first draft of their presentation of their thesis project which they will give at the beginning of the thesis semester.10%

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.


Week 1

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

Attend library sessions on Zotero, MLA Bibliograpy use and navigation

Week 3

Present possible thesis statement.

Structuring ideas, identifying theoretical approaches to topics, conducting research, source evaluation.

Peer-review of thesis topics.

Selecting and approaching first and second readers for your thesis.

Assignment: Thesis topic submitted in advance. One sentence with thesis statement and one paragraph outlining possible chapter divisions.

Brief test on Zotero and its functions.

Week 6

Final thesis topics reviewed and discussed.

Theoretical frames defined and discussed.

Creating an annotated bibliography.

Assignment: Preliminary Bibliography due (at least 12 of required sources due in at this stage)

First and second readers selected.

Week 9

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

Organizing research: division into thesis chapters

What is a literature review?

Annotated Bibliograpy due: At least 5 sources should be annotated at this stage.

Week 11

Test on general knowledge of English literature in view of periodization, authors, genres, critical theory

Assignment: Literature Review due

Week 13


Presentation of thesis project in powerpoint or other visual form

Submission of portfolio including:

1. Thesis statement

2. Literature Review

3. Bibliography and 5 annotated sources

4. Preliminary thesis content page with possible chapter divisions