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English and Literature Courses--How to find literary criticism: Choose a topic

How to find essays about authors and their literary works from authoritative sources.

Getting started with your topic

When selecting a research topic for a short story, poem, or play, choose an author whose work you enjoyed or one that your instructor suggests for you.

For help choosing an author, the reference sets listed below provide background reading on prominent authors and short summaries of their most well-known literary works. These sets are in the Reference area on 2nd floor and in the database Literary Reference Center. Ask for help locating these books if needed. Look up authors by their last names, alphabetically within each print set or type an author's name into the database with "critical survey" to find these articles. Log into the database from home with your myLSCO userID/password. 

  • If you need a short story author, use Critical Survey of Short Fiction at PN 3321.C7.  7 volumes.
  • If you need is poet, use Critical Survey of Poetry at PN1021 .C7.  8 volumes.
  • If you need a dramatist, use Critical Survey of Drama at PN1625 .C68.  8 volumes. 
  • These books are also available in the database Literary Reference Center. Use search tips as shown below. 

Search using an author's last name to find articles in the Critical Survey series. For example type:

faulkner and critical survey (from results, select the article that has the type of work you need, such as short fiction, long fiction, poetry or drama)

After selecting an author and reading their article in Critical Survey, choose a work by reading overview articles from one of the Masterplots II reference sets. The Masterplots II: Short Story Series gives plot summaries, themes and meanings, style and technique elements for a large number of short stories. The other two series provide similar overviews for poetry and plays. Look up each literary work by its title, alphabetically within each Masterplots II set. Ignore words "a," "an," or "the" at the start of a title when looking up a title or when searching by title in the database.

  • For short stories use Masterplots II: Short Story Series at PN3326 .M27 8 volumes.
  • For poems use Masterplots II: Poetry Series at PN1110.5 .M37 8 volumes.
  • For plays use Masterplots II: Drama series at PN 6112.5 .M37 4 volumes.
  • These books are also fully available in the database Literary Reference Center. Use search tips as shown below.

Search using the work title to find the Masterplots II series. For example type:

      rose for emily and masterplots

This reading gives you ideas about what your paper might focus on for specific works and you can make a final selection of a work or works. You can count these articles as two of your sources for a research paper or bibliography. They are considered to be work overviews, not critical essays, but a work included in these books is likely have many critical essays in other sources. This initial background reading should help you to understand your author, their critical reception, their major literary works, and something about the literary movement, period or style in which they worked.

While looking at an article in this database, look to the right column under "Tools." Click icons to print, email, download or cite the article. Cite and Print tools allow you to select MLA to format your citation.

What about novels or longer works of fiction?

Most instructors require a shorter work as discussed in the box above, but if you need to find information about a novel, the following series provide similar articles on long fiction. They are also included in the database Literary Reference Center.

  • Critical Survey of Long Fiction at PN3451 .C75. 8 volumes
  • Critical Survey of Mystery and Detective Fiction at PN3448.D4 C75 4 volumes
  • Masterplots II American Fiction Series at PS373 .M37 2000 6 volumes
  • Masterplots II World Fiction Series at PN3326 .M28 4 volumes
  • Masterplots II British and Commonwealth Series at PR881 .M39 4 volumes

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