The misery of a self-didactic literary analysis lies with its perpetuity. One can go on and on and on, especially when a thesis is on the line. Besides scoping text and narrative for examples to correspond with one's choice of critical approach,* how does one know when to stop? A close reading of even a short story, let alone a novel, can become a hydra. Garnered requirements seem to be the following, but is a category missing? - Theme - Structure - Style - Discussion sifted through a specific critical approach*

Thank you for learned opinions and knowledge of the discipline. (*maybe say, a "Bakhtinian analysis" or a "feminist analysis".)

  • 2
    What exactly are you writing? A "critique" (in a newspaper?) is not the same as a dissertation (for a Ph.D.) or an analysis (in a journal paper). Could you give some more details on what exactly you want to do?
    – user5645
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 11:23

1 Answer 1


Generally the approach is to present one idea per academic paper. You have one basic hypothesis, and one method to test it. If you have more methods to try, you present those experiments in other papers. If you have more hypotheses, you test them in other papers.

In the natural sciences you usually find that a research team publishes a string of papers on the same research topic (e.g. time perception). In literary studies you can both find a scholar testing the applicability of one method (e.g. feminist reading) to a wide variety of texts, as well as a scholar applying a variety of methods to one text or corpus (e.g. a specific author or literary epoch or even an outstanding single work).

A monograph can then be a collection of all results that you and/or your fellow researchers found. The theme of the monograph can be defined by a methodology, a genre, an author, an epoch, etc., or a combination of these.

Scientific progress is cumulative. No one expects one scholar to fathom the complete width and breadth of one topic.

In my time, the criterion for the success of a scholarly dissertation was that it had to present new insights and contribute something new to its field. The best way to learn about the scope of a dissertation, is to read other dissertations, ideally from the same field you work in. The closer their topic and methodology to your own, the better. And read the original dissertations, not the re-written versions published as books.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.