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Literary Criticism: Introduction



Whether literary research is easy or hard very often depends on the topic or literary work you choose to analyze. The process does not have to be nerve-wracking or take forever. Here are some tips regarding topic selection to help make the research process stress-free:


It is easier to find criticism on works of authors from the past than on works by contemporary authors. It takes time for a body of critical writing about an author or literary work to grow.


It is easier to find criticism on works by well-known authors than on works by those not so famous.


Larger works, like novels and plays, seem to attract more critical attention than individual short stories, essays, or poems.


Don't finalize your topic too soon. Consider two or three works of literature, do some quick, preliminary searching for each title in the tools introduced in this research guide, and choose the one on which you can find the most information most quickly.  


Unless, of course, an obscure work or work by a contemporary author is something you are passionately interested in. Then ignore Tips One through Four, and choose it.


Your English teacher has told you to pick a work of literature, find literary criticism about it, and then write a paper summarizing your research. Your instructor tells you to find both books and journal articles on your chosen literary work. And finally, you need to set the literary work in its context, meaning you need to say something about the author, his or her life, and why he or she wrote that particular literary work.

How do you get started? Where do you find this stuff?

This research guide is designed to lead you through the process of finding literary criticism and writing your literary analysis paper.

In this guide, you will learn about:

  • Steps to help you develop and find resources for your assignment.

  • Databases that provide you access to literary journals, biographical information, plot summaries, overviews, book reviews, and critical materials about the literary work you have chosen.

  • Information about literary theory and literary terms to help you focus your ideas.

  • Information on citation in MLA format.


This guide was copied/remixed with permission from:

Ted Bergfelt, Humanities Librarian, Duquense University

OWL Purdue, Writing a Literary Analysis

Perimeter College, Georgia State University, Learning &Tutoring Center Literary Analysis Thesis  

University of Texas Arlington Libraries

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Taft College Library, 29 Cougar Ct, Taft, CA., (661) 763-7817)

Literary Criticism

"Literary criticism” refers to the act of interpreting and studying literature.

A literary critic is someone who argues on behalf of an interpretation or understanding of the particular meaning(s) of literary texts. The task of a literary critic is to explain and attempt to reach a critical understanding of what literary texts mean in terms of their aesthetic, as well as social, political, and cultural statements and suggestions. 

An Introduction to Literary Criticism and Theory


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