British Literature & Senior Paper Topics for a Research Paper

A senior research paper on British literature may sound like a daunting task. There are so many topics to choose from that it's hard to know where to begin. In British literature, you have more than a thousand years of written material to choose from for a paper. The quickest way to get a handle on things is to break the subject up into smaller parts. Fortunately, most literary paper topics can be organized into several broad categories. After that, choose an area of interest - a time period, person, or an event - and construct a thesis that answers some question related to that interest.

Ethnicity and Empire

The status of different cultures in society is a ripe topic for discussion. Literature often brings to light difficult issues like racial inequality that ordinarily aren't discussed. Britain's history includes numerous conquests and rule of several foreign lands. The native cultures of these colonies responded to British rule in various ways. Both British and colonial authors have expressed their situations through literature. A number of quality research papers could be produced through an investigation of how Britain's literature and its colonizing past interact.


The status of women in British society has changed a great deal through the ages. Literature by women or about women can be reveal the development of these changes. You can ask the same questions about men that you do about women. An example of a simple topic might be "What does it mean to be a man or a woman during this time period?" The contemporary literature can provide several interesting answers to that question.

Class Distinctions

British literature frequently examines the workings of class within society. Charles Dickens provides a good example. The lower classes struggle upward, middle classes rub elbows with aristocrats, and the poorest citizens are often forgotten. A research paper might examine how a particular author views the class structure of Britain in a particular period. Some might celebrate the status quo, while others might call for change.

Defining Britishness

Writers in Great Britain have long grappled with what it means to be British. The country has a varied history, transforming from barbarian frontier to world empire in a relatively short span of time. Whether they realize it or not, every British writer in some way formulates their own definition of what it means to be British.

Genre and Style

If you don't want to focus on the content of British literature, you can instead look at the form and style. The different kinds of literature, such as poetry, fiction, and drama, have histories all their own. Each genre is suited to achieving a certain goal, and each was the preferred method of expression during a particular period in British history. A research paper could discuss how the "rules" of poetry have evolved, or the invention of the novel. This approach allows a great deal of creative latitude, but it may also require more research to build an effective argument.

Thesis Statements

After choosing a broad topic, you have to do some preliminary research. It helps to narrow the material down to a single author, or a single book by that author. On the other hand, you might compare how two authors approach the same issue. As you read, write down the questions that come into your mind. Make a short list of the questions that interest you the most and are the best candidates for a research paper. Distill your question into a single coherent statement that your paper will address. That's your thesis statement, and it's the launching point for the rest of your paper.

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