Posted by: sammw2ms | September 29, 2009

Ideas for Research Paper

I just started my first quarter of grad school and part of that is taking an Advanced Composition class.  For that class, it is required that each student keep a blog about their research project, 25 pages due at the end of the quarter.  So far, all we have been assigned to do is to start coming up with ideas for this research project.  Being that I have just found my new passion in life of middle childhood education and have started my journey towards becoming a language arts and social studies teacher, I want to pick a topic that both interests me and can help me on this path.

Last week, I was brainstorming about Arts in Education, a topic that is of great importance to me as my undergrad was theatre education.  But I wanted a new angle and I feel that the value of arts in education is always my default topic, so why not challenge myself?  I started thinking of other things that interest me and I didn’t make it very far before the next idea worked its way into my brain… Harry Potter.  I have been obsessed/fascinated/enthralled with the Harry Potter books since the beginning of college, almost ten years ago when I read the first 4 over Christmas break in 1999.  Since then, I have read them all countless time and had just started rereading them a few weeks ago.

But enough of my history, this all brings me to one point.  I want to write my big research thesis paper on the Harry Potter books, specifically, what could I teach kids using these books as a tool in the classroom… or something along those lines.  Where do I go from here?  Well, I need to figure out what specifically I am going to research and what will be my thesis question.

Ideas: Teaching tools used by the Professors at Hogwarts, how they work, do they work, pros and cons (namely, the House Points), good and bad behaviors that children can learn through the characters of Harry Potter (honestly, loyalty, integrity… also good vs. evil), the history allusions in Harry Potter (parallels of WWII, etc.) and the myths and legends behind many of the names of people, places, and things.  Also, what can kids learn about their own creativity?  These are some of the things bouncing around in my head.  I am opening this to other people that I know that are huge fans of the books and have spent lots of time noticing the tiny details in each book.  The foreshadowing, the hidden meanings, etc. so that I can get feedback from people on my topic.

Two articles that I have already found that I want to explore further, thanks to

That’s that for now!  Feedback is welcome (and encouraged).  I am excited about virtual aspect of the blog and how that will help me in this research project.


  1. One of the aspects of Harry Potter that could be used is how he relates to the hero archetype found in multiple myths and legends. Usually the classic hero is an orphan, meets a mentor, etc. for example, notice the parallels with Frodo, King Arthur,etc. Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero has a Thousand Faces” might be a good reference for this.

  2. I think that the the ideas you’ve expressed could each be a research topic in and of itself. Which one or two would be most relevant to the students you will be working with once you start teaching? What appeals most to this age group already? I’d do an informal survey of students you know at this age to perhaps gauge what they are thinking. The myths and legends appeals most to me but would that be more high school level?

  3. You can even expand the discussion to work collaboratively with other departments. The use of color and light is so important in the books . . . light and dark, the house colors, etc. You might even look at the covers of each of the books (UK and US versions) both for color, theme, and foreshadowing. How could that be used in an art class?

    Another really interesting aspect of the books (from this humble librarian’s point of view) is that the books start as Juvenile literature, there is a bit of gray area in the fourth title, and then progress towards Young Adult titles once you reach the end of the fourth book and begin the fifth. The books grow with Harry which is pretty unusual. I cannot think of another series that does this.

  4. Marta, I sent this to Kelly… maybe you could nudge her to look at it? Maybe Rebecca and any of her other friends too? They are a little older than the grade I would like to teach, but I think they could give some great insight and I am actually hoping to maybe include them in my research somehow… since it’d be for middle school-ish age!

  5. Another angle that could be covered in the classroom is character development. Rowling wrote up detailed biographies of even the minor characters, including hobbies, families, birthdays, etc, before she ever started writing the books. That might be something that would work well with 5th graders.
    Also, not only does Harry’s story tie in with classical mythological heroes, but there are numerous fairy tale elements that are in the books as well. That might be more appropriate for elementary school aged students.

  6. One thing that might be interesting is the way that each book has something that symbolises the things children encounter as they grow up. For example, in the third book Harry and his classmates are thirteen, the age when depression becomes a serious issue for children and when even those not truly effected feel that they are. And what is a major problem for Harry? Dementors – a creature that sucks all the happiness out of the place and make a person feel as tho they could never be happy again just like depression. I read an article written by a psychiatrist in Australia back in 2000 or 2001 on this topic that was fascinating.

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