Literary Studies essays

Module outline

This module will help you learn some of the key principles for writing in literary studies. We discuss the kind of language you should use in your writing, how to interpret and contextualise texts, and how to structure your essay.

There are two main parts to this module. You can either follow the arrows through the entire lesson, or skip to particular parts that interest you.

What makes a good Literary Studies essay?

Before we begin, let's consider what makes a good essay. Scholars in Literary Studies learn their craft through researching and writing essays. The main purpose of a Literary Studies essay is to closely analyse one or more literary texts/literary theories, and then formulate and defend a logical and convincing argument about a key problem or question in the discipline.

This process involves:

  • Engaging critically with appropriate secondary material.
  • Contributing to socio-historical,ecological, theoretical, gender, and genre specific debates in Literary Studies
  • Demonstrating skills in finding, evaluating and presenting analysis of relevant primary and secondary sources

A few characteristics of a good essay in Literary Studies:

  • It responds to the chosen essay topic or question. Many essays end up not properly addressing the topic or answering the question, getting sidetracked by other ideas.
  • It maintains a clear position, or contention, in relation to the topic. This position is supported by an argument that is developed over the course of the essay and supported by appropriate evidence from primary and secondary sources.
  • It demonstrates an attempt to develop original ideas, make new observations and connections, or put forward a different perspective.
  • It is attentive to citing and referencing requirements. The essay provides citations for all quotes and ideas taken from other sources, as well as a properly-formatted reference list of all works cited in the essay.
  • It is written using academic writing conventions, being serious and formal in tone, avoiding slang and contractions, and being attentive to spelling and grammar.
  • It adheres to discipline-specific writing principles.