Resources for English Research – Literary Criticism

Image of Mark Twain from the collections at the Library of Congress

About this Guide

This guide provides students with recommended resources for conducting literary criticism research for English Courses. Use the tabs above to navigate through the pages of the guide. For research assignments on a selected topic or issue, try using the guide called Resources for English Research – General Research.

What is”Literary Criticism”?

Literary criticism, or literary analysis, is the process of evaluating, interpreting and analyzing literary works (books, stories, poems) or the work of an author in general. You may be required to find literary criticism articles about the literary work or author you’re investigating.

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Finding Background Information

Reference books are a good place to begin your research or to find inspiration for an assignment. The print reference books are available in the Luria Library Reference section. The library also subscribes to some online reference sources, listed below.

Print Reference Books

  • Drama for Students – R 809.2 G153d
  • Novels for Students – R 809.3 G151n
  • Short Stories for Students – R 809.31 G151ss
  • The Oxford Companion to American Literature – R 810.3 H325o
  • American Writers – R 810.9 A512a
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography – R 810.9 M996
  • The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry – R 811.009 G779g or Access Online

Online Reference Books

When you click to access this resource from off campus, you will be prompted to log in with your Pipeline username and password.

Finding Books

The library’s collection includes both print books and online ebooks covering literary criticism topics. Search the library catalog (books+) for literary criticism on your author or work. Search the words “criticism” or “interpretation”, as in the sample searches below, to find information on your topic. Separate search terms with the word “and.”

    flannery oconnor and criticism
    twain and interpretation
    macbeth and criticism
    moby dick and criticism

Finding Articles

Use these library databases to search for articles that provide critique and interpretation of authors and particular works, including short stories and poetry.

    Artemis: Provides access to Literature Resource Center, Literature Criticism Online (which includes Contemporary Literary Criticism, Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Short Story Criticism, and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism), and Scribner Writers Series in a single research environment. Includes primary sources, critical articles, literary and cultural analysis, and biographies.
    JSTOR: This resource is useful for finding literary criticism. Note that journal articles in JSTOR are available in full text from the first volume up until five years ago.
    Project MUSE: This database also includes literary criticism.

Evaluating Websites

Figuring out whether the information you find online is credible enough for college research can be challenging. Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation Questions to help you determine whether the sources you find are credible:

  • Purpose: How and why the source was created. Is it intended to educate, inform, persuade, sell, or entertain? Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors state this purpose, or try to disguise it? Why was this information published in this particular type of source (book, article, website, blog, etc.)? Is the source designed for the general public, students, or experts?
  • Relevance: The value of the source for your needs. Does the type of source meet your assignment’s requirements? Does the information answer your question, support your argument, or add something to your knowledge of the topic? Is it too general or too specific? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information. Do the authors present the information thoroughly and professionally? Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong, emotional, manipulative, or offensive language? Do they leave out, or make fun of, important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information. Do the authors support the information they present with strong factual evidence? Do they cite or provide links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic? Can you verify the information in other credible sources? Does the source contradict itself, include false statements, or misrepresent other sources?
  • Expertise: The authority of the creators of the source. What makes the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the source authorities on the topic? Do they have related education, experience, or other expertise? Do they provide an important alternative perspective? Has the source been reviewed in some way, such as by an editor or through peer review?
  • Newness: The age of the information. Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as science, technology, or current events), or could information found in older sources still be useful? When was the information presented in the source first published or posted? Are newer sources available that would add important information to your understanding of the topic?

Recommended Websites

For more help locating reliable information online, see the Finding Credible Web Sources research guide.

How to Cite

MLA citation style is most typically used when writing papers in the liberal arts or humanities. Double check with your professor about which citation style is required for your assignments.

Citation Guidelines

The following resources will help you construct MLA citations: