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English Language & Literature

Resources for conducting literary research on English & American Literatures.

Why Use Reference Works?

Young woman sitting at the library using books and laptopReference works -- like encyclopedias, handbooks, and dictionaries -- provide great overviews and background information. 

  • They help you contextualize your topic and generate questions.
  • They help identify keywords you can use later when searching for scholarly sources. 
  • They contain bibliographies that lead you 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!

Literary Theories & Theorists

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

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.