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Literary Research

Research and criticism

Literary Research

Literary research involves the study of novels, plays, poetry, short stories, or other forms of literature. The work is usually discussed in terms of its form, its characters, its themes, etc. Your literary research project probably involves finding works by individual authors, works written by others about those authors' works, or both.

You can analyze an author's work using your own judgment or by researching what others have said or written about that author. The "P" section of the library stacks houses literature and materials about literature. You can find works by and about specific authors by using our library catalog. Our library databases, available from our website,, offer articles from journals, magazines, and books.

Before you start,  be sure that you understand the type of literary work you are researching. If you need information about the elements of novels, poems,etc., here are some suggested websites for information.

For poetry

For novels and short stories

For plays

Getting started

Getting started  

Use this link for a step-by-step guide to completing a research project.

Choosing a a topic

A good rule for starting any project is to find out some general information about your prospective subject(s) before jumping into major research. If you have several authors to choose from read a little about each in a general source, perhaps from Literary Reference Center. You can even get an idea of the author's different works first, then choose one that you will enjoy learning about.

Discovering Keywords

Write a sentence describing your topic. Then choose the most significant words from that sentence. Usually these involve the "who, what, when and where" of your question.

An example of a topic sentence would be, "How does Shakespeare treat women in Hamlet? Useful keywords are "Shakespeare", "women", and "Hamlet".

If you don't get results, think of words that mean the same thing as your keywords.  For a fuller explanation of keywords, see a discussion from Thompson Rivers University Library.