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A lot of people have the wrong mindset when it comes to research.
To begin, it’s helpful just to read through the poem normally and try to understand what the author is describing.
Once you have the surface meaning down, you can go back through and look for deeper meaning. I’ll make some general observations, and then take it line by line.
For our purposes, I’m going to use Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers,” as it represents the level of poem you would deal with in a typical 100 level English course.
Before I can explain what close reading is, we need to choose a text to work with (a “text” is a term English majors use to refer to written work they’re analyzing).
It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking or eloquent, and it will likely change as you write the paper, but having something to work with will keep you from freaking out and becoming a caffeinated zombie stumbling through the library at 3am searching for last minute sources, only to collapse amid a pile of books.
The best way to create this “working thesis,” as we’ll call it, is to look back over your notes, pick something that stands out to you, and then write 1-2 sentences that describe that topic.
If nothing else, research makes the writing process easier by preventing you from being vague or making stuff up, as you have real evidence to back up your claims.
It also helps when dealing with difficult or subjective questions, as you’re able to call upon the knowledge of everyone who’s ever thought and written about the topic to help you.“Great,” you may say, “but how do I do that? ”Well, you can begin where you probably spend most of your time anyway: the internet.
A quote from it even appeared in one of my favorite Arthur episodes.
Dickinson can be quite difficult to understand, but this poem is not too hard.