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Step-by-Step Guide & Research Rescue: Literature

This guide will help you understand how to efficiently and effectively do basic research.

Step 1. Locate Literature Background Information

This guide leads you through the research process for Academic Freedom topics. For general tips on the research process, click on the Basic Research Strategy tab above.

Related Subject Guide - English Literatures


It is important when researching literature to immediately narrow your topic to an author's specific work, part of a work, or a particular aspects of the author's style, genre (novel, short story, poetry, drama), subject (science fiction, mystery, folklore, humor, etc.) or time period. It is usually best to consult with your instructor to be sure that your selection can be researched and written about adequately under the conditions of the assignment.

Using specialized print encyclopedias located in the Humanities Reference collection, Level 5, and the following online databases look up the author's name or time period and other subcategories you want to research. For additional subject specific background resources, use the English Literatures Subject Guide.

Step 2. Develop & Narrow Your Topic

After reading Background Resources, you should be able to fill out the following "From Topic to Research Focus" formula.  NOTE: This is NOT the same as your Thesis Statement.  Your Thesis Statement is developed after you read Research Materials about your issue/question, determine your stance, and decide how you will present your attitude/angle/argument. For examples of how to use the "From Topic to Research Focus" rubric, click on the Develop and Narrow Topic tab at the top of this page.

1)  I am researching ______________________________________ (topic)
2)  because I want to find out _______________________________  (issue/question)
3)  in order to ____________________________________________ (application)

Organize your Research Focus into concepts: identify terms, think of synonyms, and organize them using this chart.

(Concept 1) _______________ OR ______________ OR ______________ (Synonyms for Concept 1)

AND (Concept 2) ___________ OR ______________ OR ______________ (Synonyms for Concept 2)

AND (Concept 3) ___________ OR ______________ OR ______________ (Synonyms for Concept 3)

Step 3. Find Research Materials for Literature topics

For Books use the Books & More search to find specific titles from the bibliographies you noted above. Use the Books & More - Advanced Search to find additional books on your issue question. Referring back to the concept chart above, enter your keyword search, one concept for each box.

For Articles use the Articles & More - Advanced Search selecting Collection: Languages & Literature. Referring back to the concept chart above, enter your keyword search, one concept for each box. Click Go to begin the search. Click on the title of the article to read the abstract. Click the Full Text Available and Check for Full Text to view the entire article.

To retrieve additional articles, connect to the databases linked below, or select them from Databases A-Z in the Databases & Journals box on the Library Home Page. Depending on how you have narrowed your subject, other databases listed on the English Literatures Subject Guide may also be appropriate.

Steps 4 & 5: Evaluating Research Materials & Writing Your Paper

For tips on Evaluating Research Materials & Writing Your Paper, click on the Basic Research Strategy tab above.