Course Exam – Research and Writing Projects in Literature (ENGL 492)

Course Exam – Research and Writing Projects in Literature (ENGL 492)

Calling all English majors! Athabasca University’s Centre for Language and Literature has recently launched a new senior-level English course featuring advanced English literature research. The course, titled Research and Writing Projects in Literature (ENGL 492), provides students with the opportunity to “work on an individual research project in literature,” states course author and professor Dr. Joseph Pivato. Dr. Pivato adds that ENGL 492 fills a gap for students of AU and Calgary’s Mount Royal College as students from both schools can enrol in the course.

ENGL 492 is patterned on other AU research courses, in which “students and professor agree on a particular topic… and, like ENGL 491, each student can work with a different professor depending on the topic,” says Dr. Pivato. In this way, students gain valuable, directed research experience in a literature-related topic of their choice. According to Dr. Pivato, the “emphasis is on in-depth analysis in a particular topic, works of an author, or literature problem.” Students are welcome to choose research from a variety of English literature, ranging from modern Canadian literature or cyber issues to traditional Shakespeare.

Student evaluation in ENGL 492 is determined through several factors, all of which deal with the main course research project. The initial research proposal submission to their tutor is weighted at 10% of the overall mark. Prior to its submission, indicates Dr. Pivato, the “text and approach are agreed upon, [then] the student writes this up into a formal research proposal.” The purpose of this initial proposal is to “provide some guidance in how to approach the topic and begin to do the research and reading,” since “sometimes students come with an enormous topic, such as the image of women in the Canadian prairie novel. This topic,” he continues, “has to be focused in a way that is manageable in one course. So the professor might suggest that the student work on one novel by each of three or four authors. And in addition, there would be research into the social and historical conditions of the time…there would be work on theory: postcolonial, feminist theory or psychoanalytic theory.”

Dr. Pivato has an extensive background in literature-related studies. With a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Alberta, he has held the position of Professor of English and Humanities at AU for many years. During this time, he has developed several AU English literature courses including ENGL 351 and 451 (both of which explore comparative literature) and ENGL 423 (Contemporary Literary Theory). Prior to joining AU’s Centre for Language and Literature, Dr. Pivato taught at the University of Toronto and York University. He is also the author of six books and continues to be a pioneer in ethnic literature (especially Italian-Canadian literature). In fact, he taught one of the first Italian-Canadian literature course offered in Canada!

Student evaluation in Research and Writing Projects in Research (ENGL 492) also consists of a progress report, worth 10%, which is “a short essay of five pages” that details the student’s progress in reading and research. “The progress report,” explains Dr. Pivato, “keeps the project on track as the student begins to write about the early results of the work. The student may also identify some changes in the direction of the project.”

The final research paper, which is between 25 – and 35 pages long, is worth 70%. The research paper’s bibliography is worth 10%.

Additional information on Research and Writing Projects in Literature (ENGL 492) can be found by accessing the course syllabus at: For more information, students can explore the Centre for Language and Literature’s website at Students can find examples of sample research projects at that website. Students are also encouraged to contact the Centre’s new professor, Dr. Jolene Armstrong, for further details.