This chapter deals with three related issues:
- identifying a problem
- evaluating relevance and purpose
- 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.
You should come away from this chapter knowing how to:
- identify a research problem and evaluate relevance using specific criteria.
- understand what makes 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 later chapters.