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HLI 312 Modern Literature

A research guide for Anthony Penino's Modern Literature course.


Your paper topic may come from one of the texts that you will read in this course. Once you know what book you may want to research, you will want to concept map the book with themes in the book you may want to research. 

Concept mapping is an easy exercise to put on paper your ideas and directions you want to go. Below, I concept map James Joyce's novel with some of the themes.

Narrow Your Focus

Now that you have created your concept map, there should be one or two aspects of your topic that seem both interesting and able to be turned into a workable question. Narrow your focus: you know what you're going for; now put it in the form of a question. Below I'm starting with a book you're not covering, Native Son by Richard Wright



In the example to the left, I have added three limiters to my topic of Native Son. 

Character: Bigger Thomas

Theme: Racism

Transformation: Behavior

These limiters help me narrow down my topic and gets me closer to a research question:

Native Son's Bigger Thomas Racism Behavior

Developing a Research Question

Research Questions can be a:




Your research question MUST:

  • Be open-ended (not answered by yes or no)
  • Address an issue or controversy and/or solve a problem
  • Be something you can take a stand on