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The essay title you develop must be valid. That is, it must pose a genuine problem, or raise a question which makes sense.

  • Check your facts. If you think of a fresh angle through which to approach the text, ensure that it does in fact apply to the text: that it is in fact dealt with by the text to some extent, and that it is not anachronistic. It is easy to twist the concepts to the point where they break down and are meaningless, in an attempt to make them fit.
  • Check that you are not straying beyond your discipline. The question you raise must be the sort of question that someone working in your discipline would pose, contributes to that discipline, and is answerable using methods from that discipline. It is fine to borrow methods from other disciplines if they help to reach conclusions relevant to your own (many critical theories were originally developed in other disciplines such as psychology or sociology). However, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that you are a student of English Literature, and produce an essay which is really more of a psychological character analysis for its own sake, or draws a historical conclusion about society, rather than one which contributes to our understanding of the text as a literary artefact. Such approaches are unlikely to be successful, as they may not be valid either in English, or the subject strayed into.