Selecting an author to write a research paper on, I would suggest two criteria, which echo the posts above:
- choose an author whose work you enjoy
- choose an author who has been written about, critically and popularly
There are many, many writers out there who are the subject of extensive study and whose work is the subject of study: William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf...
The best way to narrow your choices is to find out who you really want to know about. Find someone that interests you.
If I had to choose an author to do a research paper on today, I'd choose Fyodor Dostoyevky. Partly because I happen to be reading one of his books right now and partly because his personal life seems to have seeped into his fiction. I'd like to know how much this is the case, how much is the man represented/present in the fiction.
Almost any author is worth researching. Even if that author seems "minor" or not a major figure in the literary "canon," you can learn a lot about literature and history and culture by studying that figure. If I personally had more time to do research outside my present areas of focus, I would want to take a close look at the poets of World War I, such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The latter, in particular, seems to merit more attention than he has received.
I agree with one of the previous posts that suggests that you should enjoy reading the works of the author you choose. It's tough to make suggestions about writers without knowing your own favorites. If I was doing research on one particular author, I would go with one of my own favorites: Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller or, possibly, Jerzy Kosinski.
The choice of an author to research highly depends upon one's likes and dislikes regarding literature. While you may receive many different suggestions, you may not find an author to whom you relate or have interest in.
Outside of that, some of the best authors, in my mind, to research are the Confessionalist poets. Their poems are filled with true to life depictions of what happened to them, how they reacted, and realistic examinations of life. Much research has been completed upon these authors already; so, you will have a wealth of information at your fingertips.