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Literature Research Paper Prompts – 20 Questions To Explore

The teenage and young adult years in which students explore Literature are rich with lessons – in both learning and social aspects. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to read one of these required books and fail to find a concept that can relate to everyone's life. Students are given the task to write research papers on these readings in order to show them just how little the basic fundamentals of life, love, and freedom change across time and places. The challenge that instructors face is how to make sure students connect and engage with the literature, which is where this list of 20 prompts could come in quite handy.

For some quick, go-to prompts, consider having students find evidence of foreshadowing and/or irony in the following:

  1. Hamlet
  2. Beowulf
  3. Moby Dick
  4. The Mask of the Red Death
  5. The Cask of Amontillado
  6. Students can be prompted to identify with the main character from any of the following and write a letter from that character's perspective to another character.

  7. The Great Gatsby
  8. Lord of the Flies
  9. Gulliver's Travels
  10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin
  11. The Red Badge of Courage
  12. Here are some more in-depth prompt ideas:

  13. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is about a fierce, intense and short-lived relationship between two people which ended tragically. Write a paper on the topic of passion, lust, obsession, etc. and discuss how and why people still act so drastically out of a passion for a lover.
  14. In Antigone, was the protagonist (Antigone) a hero, or a fool, considering how and why she died? Write a persuasive paper and support your opinion with examples from the reading.
  15. In the play, Macbeth is called a tyrant. Write a paper detailing what made him a tyrant, using examples from the text. Was he a good ruler? In what ways? In what ways, if any, was he cowardly?
  16. Hester Prynn in The Scarlet Letter is an imperfect woman almost everyone can relate to. Write an essay about her integrity. Use examples from the book to support whether you think she is a good person or not.
  17. In the Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank reflects herself and decides that people are generally good. How did she come to this conclusion in spite of her surroundings? Write an essay comparing her experience with something that once made you either question or see the good in the world.
  18. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, contains a lot of synonyms for the word 'ugly'. Write an essay about body image in America today, and compare the monster in the book to people who feel ashamed of their appearance. Consider how the monster felt and how he behaved.
  19. Why did the author of Pride and Prejudice name the book this way? Explore why in a well-supported research paper.
  20. Using the book, describe how you think Jane Eyre would be a person in today's society. Where would she reside? What would she do for a living? Who would she love?
  21. Write a well-supported essay about how revenge was the downfall of a character you choose in Julius Caesar.
  22. Write about what besides hunger the spilled wine could represent in A Tale of Two Cities. Use quotes and examples to explain why you think it represents this.

This level of engagement will ideally give the young audience a way to relate and decide what choices to make should they ever face a character or a situation like these. Here's to the students getting A's on these papers and on life's lessons to come as well!