Chapter Two: Identifying a Problem / Evaluating Relevance and Purpose / Considering Audience

Chapter Two Objectives

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This chapter deals with three related issues:

  • identifying a problem
  • evaluating relevance
  • considering audience

In literary studies, a problem can be a new issue or an old issue. When searching for a relevant research problem, you should first determine that there is an informed audience that will consider the issue significant, which means it is worthy of further discussion.

In the following pages, we explore relevance & purpose as they relate to possible research problems in James Baldwin’s story, “Sonny’s Blues.” We use literary scholar Ann Dobie’s work to show how to measure relevance using specific criteria such as materials, purpose, and method. This section also sets up Jada’s forthcoming discussion about how she connected “Sonny’s Blues” to her background and how she used her personal experiences to add a new perspective to this classic story.

Learning Objectives

You should come away from this chapter knowing how to

  • identify a research problem and evaluate relevance using specific criteria
  • understand what makes for a good research question
  • develop audience awareness early in the research process

These concepts relate to the ideas of scholarship as conversation and searching as strategic exploration, which we will discuss in the following chapters.


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Strategies for Conducting Literary Research Copyright © 2021 by Barry Mauer & John Venecek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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