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English Language & Literature

Resources for conducting literary research on English & American Literatures.

Why Use Reference Works?

Hand flipping through an open bookQuestion: What value lies in a reference work? Why, for example, would a researcher bother to consult a scholarly encyclopedia? 

Answer: Reference works provide great overviews. They help researchers contextualize their topics and begin to ask the right questions. They also help with generating search terms to use when later searching in research databases.  Moreover, reference works contain bibliographies that lead researchers to the most respected secondary and most useful primary sources on a topic.

In short, reference works are a great way to begin your research. 

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Need to look up a name, place, term, or event?  The sources below contain many different kinds of encyclopedias and dictionaries and are excellent starting points.  

Word Definitions, Spellings, & Histories

Need to find the earliest references to a word or phrase like "cockleburr"? Need to understand how a word was defined in a particular time period? Then these sources are for you!

Author Biographies

Introductory Essays & Topic Overviews

Need some context? These are detailed guides to authors, composers, philosophers, genres, various literatures and other fields of study, providing context and analysis for a thorough introduction.

Literary Theories & Theorists

reading glassesStill trying to wrap your head around a literary theory or theorist? Then this source is for you!

Novel Summaries, Themes, & Techniques

Literary Terms, Symbols, & Theory

Need to quick look up a literary period, theme, symbol, or term?  Try using the following sources for help!

Literary Research Reference

Trying to identify appropriate reference sources and tools to consult?  This guide is useful when planning how to approach a research topic, particularly in specific literary areas.