How do I approach a research paper about Edgar Allan Poe?
I have to write a research paper on Edgar Allan Poe. I have done a lot of reading and collected a bunch of information but I am not really sure how to approach this without it seeming like a literature review. I have never written a research paper before. I have outlined the essay with subsections (early life, publishing career, literary styles and themes, and legacy) but I guess I am stuck on the thesis statement. Should I try to say something about the darkness in his life being mirrored in his work or just say something about him being a pioneering author etc? Sorry for vagueness of the question but I just can't work out how to approach this.
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Edgar Allan Poe was an amazing author. Your outline seems sufficient to explain about his life and his literature, but it seems rather bland. Poe and his talent was anything but bland. Clearly, one can draw a comparison between the tragic nature of Poe's life and the literature he wrote, and that might be the best and most interesting way to go. What if you tried to weave connections to individual Poe works and his life. For example: Can you find a connection between "Annabel Lee" or "Hellen" and the relationship between Poe and his wife? Can you draw a connection between the sense of isolation in stories such as "The Tell-Tale Heart" and the isolation Poe experienced through his family and/or professional relationships? Playing around with a meaningful but clever thesis statement would make it more enjoyable for you as well as your readers. Maybe something like: While Edgar Allan Poe's works are not autobiographical, there is no doubt that the darkness of his life experience (glows, shines, is reflected) in his works.
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The more specific the topic of your paper, the better the paper will be and the easier it will be to research and write. That means that you need to formulate some very specific question to ask about Poe's work and then spend some time looking at his work and appropriate background information to develop an answer.
For example, Poe's wife died of "consumption" (what is now called tuberculosis), as did many of his characters. You might investigate the role of consumption in Poe's works. How many of his characters suffered from it? Is his treatment of the disease realistic? What role does it play in his plots? Are there specific types of character who suffer from it?
Another possibility would be to look at incest in Poe. Poe himself married his cousin, and incestuous relationships are discussed or implied in several of his works. You would want also to look at the definition of incest -- there were intense debates in the period about what counted as incest (a cousin? a deceased wife's sister?)
There are many other topics you could discuss, but what is most important is choosing a sufficiently narrow topic so that you can research it and write about it in depth.
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