This guide serves as a starting point for locating and evaluating information for English.

Library Research Guide

Getting Started with Literary Criticism

Starting a critical analysis of an author, work, or genre? Not sure how to start or feeling overwhelmed by the articles you do find? Save time by getting an overview of what literary criticism already exists on your topic.

Yes, you can use Wikipedia as a starting point, but when you need direction on academic sources, information on this page will help you:

  • focus or refine your research topic,
  • identify books or articles already written about your topic,
  • start a list of keywords to use when searching for books and articles,
  • understand the key themes or theories talked about in the articles and books you discover in your research.

Visit the pages on this guide for Academic Articles, Books, and Cultural Context to continue your research.

Author Biographies & Overviews

Learn more about an author:

  • when they lived
  • where they lived
  • what they wrote
  • known influences
  • whether they believe chocolate is the best rejuvenator after a long day of writing

When searching in these databases, look for Author or Person search options. From the search results, look for options to limit your results to content types like:

  • biographies (who they were)
  • bibliographies (what they wrote)

Plot Summaries & Character Overviews

Plot summaries and character overviews cannot take the place of reading a work. However, they can provide terms and keywords for further research. Take note of subject terms, adjectives, genres, and themes that appear.

When searching these databases, look for options to search for a Work/Name of Work. From the search results, look for options to limit results to:

  • Topic & Work Overviews
  • Plot Summaries

Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism

Use the John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism to establish a baseline understanding of key theories, theorists, and movements in literature.

Entries include extensive bibliographies.

Search for Books with Literary Criticism

To find books about a work or an author, instead of a copy of the original work try:

  • using the in subject option on Search It's Advanced Search screen
  • adding key words like criticism to your search terms

Search It "in subject" Option

1. Click on the Advanced Search button from the Search It box on K-State Libraries' home page.

Advanced Search button for Search It

2. Click the K-State Libraries Only tab

3. Using the drop down options, change Any to in subject

4. Enter the work title or author's name in the search box

Search It advanced search using in subject option

Literary Criticism Search Terms Option

Using the search box on the Libraries' home page or the Advanced Search page, build a search by combining:

  • title of the work or author's name
  • terms like: criticism, interpretation and/or history

Search It Advanced search using keywords criticism or interpretations

Guides, Companions, and Encyclopedias

Guides, companions, and encyclopedias offer an in-depth entry point to studying literature. These works are often written for students or a researcher exploring new content and provide a window into the existing scholarship (including theory and criticism).

Don't find what you need using the links below? Try:

1. Searching in Search It or WorldCat for your author/work/movement/genre and the words: encyclopedia, companion, or guide. For example:

  • medieval literature AND guide
  • Asian literature AND encyclopedia
  • Emily Dickinson AND encyclopedia

2. Broaden your search to a term that would include your author/work/movement.

For instance, information about Octavia Butler could appear in works about African American authors, the science fiction and fantasy genre, and twentieth century women authors.