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Florida SouthWestern State College Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance Essay


Research Paper: Requirements

  1. Find at least four secondary sources (the text itself is a primary source) related to your topic. You can use valid website as two of these sources. The other two sources must come from the electronic databases.  You can use Wikipedia, SparkNotes, Cliff Notes, etc as background only or to help you get ideas to develop with the other research. These do not count as one of the four required sources. You will need at least one source from a history site or article to get historical background information.
  2. Based on your research, write an essay on one of the topics listed above. To do this, you will need to briefly SUMMARIZE your story or poem, ANALYZE its themes, and DISCUSS how the historical research you did relates to the story or poem’s meaning.
  3. Your thesis should make a claim that answers the question asked and connects the story to its historical context and the body of your paper will substantiate that claim. The research you’ve done will be there to INFORM what you’re saying, but you will need to CITE any source you quote or paraphrase. Even if you paraphrase the ideas expressed in your source, you need to give the author credit for those ideas. It is your responsibility to document these sources correctly (see the MLA link in Library tutorial posted in Canvas). The proof of your research will ALSO be present in your essay’s sophistication and knowledge.
  4. Again, your essay must have a thesis that relevantly connects the story to its historical context and to the essay topic. The body of the paper will substantiate that connection by explaining one or more of the story or poems elements (plot, characters, setting, theme, language) to your research. For example, if you’re writing an historical analysis of “Barn Burning” your thesis will not say that the piece is a story about childhood innocence, but would instead say that Abner serves an example of the consequences of economic pressures in the “new South.” The body of the paper, obviously, would connect the story to what was happening in the American South in the 1930s, yet the essay is still an analysis of literature, the literary elements used to develop the themes.
  5. All of your evidence must relate to your thesis. Go through the work carefully and slowly and discuss it in terms of the historical context. You may talk about the plot, characters, setting, themes, language (fiction and drama have very similar elements) but you will connect these elements to your strategy.

Length Requirement: 1200 words

Research Paper: Tips for Writing Analysis of Historical Context in Literature

Historical context refers to the moods, attitudes, and conditions that existed in a certain time. Context is the “setting” for an event that occurs, and the elements, conditions, and characteristics of this specific time will have an impact on the work being studied.


  • Examine the structure of the text and identify the following: climax, rising action, falling action, resolution.
  • Identify the protagonist, antagonist, foil, minor characters.
  • Identify the central conflict and how the protagonist changes throughout the text.
  • Look at the narrator.  Is this person reliable or not?
  • Where and when is the story set?


  • Examine the structure of the poem including literary devices like similes, metaphors, personification. If you isolate these elements they can reveal the structure.  Look at the stanzas, their length, and spacing. Look at the rhyme scheme? Is the poem free verse?
  • Identify the order in which the poet presents the ideas.  Try to go through each line and put it into your own words.


  • Think about the author’s purpose.  What do you think the author was trying to get across to the reader?
  • Look at how the author conveys this message by repetition, phrases, images, literary devices.  Examine the title and the settings as well as the language and the behavior of the characters in fiction.
  • Identify any symbols and try to figure out what they represent.
  • How does the work portray the author’s worldview, philosophy, or value system? Has your worldview, philosophy, or value system been challenged by the work?


  • Research the author’s background: their nation of origin, the political events and struggles of their time, their family structure, their education and social class, their religion, their moral beliefs, their age and health conditions and determine how these facts influenced their work as well as  your reading of their work?
  • Research the political and social issues as well as any historical trends that are reflected in this work.
  • Identify these issues influenced the author and the text.


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