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ENG 102 Poetry Research

This guide is designed to help you complete an English 102 research paper about a poem.

2. Explore Your Topic

After thoroughly examining your assignment, now it's time to explore your topic.  Try a search in the following database to learn more about the poem you are focusing on as well as it's theme and other literary elements. 

Analyze Your Topic

Magnifying Glass

This specific argument that you want to make about the poem will be your thesis. You will support this thesis by drawing examples and evidence from the poem itself. In order to make a credible argument about the poem, you will want to analyze certain aspects of the poem including what genre the poem fits into, what its themes are, and what poetic techniques and figures of speech are used.

Theme: One place to start when writing about poetry is to look at any significant themes that emerge in the poetry. Does the poetry deal with themes related to love, death, war, or peace? What other themes show up in the poem? Are there particular historical events that are mentioned in the poem? What are the most important concepts that are addressed in the poem?

Genre: What kind of poem are you looking at? Is it an epic (a long poem on a heroic subject)? Is it a sonnet (a brief poem, usually consisting of fourteen lines)? Is it an ode? A satire?  A lyric? Does it fit into a specific literary movement such as Modernism, Romanticism, Neoclassicism, or Renaissance poetry? 

Versification: Look closely at the poem's rhyme and meter. Is there an identifiable rhyme scheme? Is there a set number of syllables in each line? The most common meter for poetry in English is iambic pentameter.

Figures of speech: Are there literary devices being used that affect how you read the poem? Here are some examples of commonly used figures of speech:

  • metaphor: comparison between two unlike things
  • simile: comparison between two unlike things using "like" or "as"
  • metonymy: one thing stands for something else that is closely related to it (For example, using the phrase "the crown" to refer to the king.)
  • synecdoche: a part stands in for a whole (For example, in the phrase "all hands on deck," "hands" stands in for the people in the ship's crew.)
  • personification: a non-human thing is endowed with human characteristics
  • irony: a difference between the surface meaning of the words and the implications that may be drawn from them

Cultural Context: : How does the poem you are looking at relate to the historical context in which it was written? You may want to explore some of our history databases to find information on a particular time period.