Literary Criticism Research Guide

This guide will help you begin finding sources in literary criticism. The resources covered in this guide include some that are available through the Cypress College Library, and others that are available openly on the Internet. This is only a starting point; for more detailed information come to the library and ask for a consultation at the Reference Desk.

Your research strategy might include some or all of the following:

  • Use reference sources to find an overview of your topic, or to find general background information on your topic
  • Use the library’s online catalog to find books on your topic
  • Use the library’s licensed databases to find journal, magazine, newspaper, and other types of articles on your topic
  • Use the internet to find credible web sources on your topic

How do I find an overview or general background information about my topic?

Reference sources are a great place to start a research project. You can use reference sources to find definitions of terms that might be unfamiliar to you. You can also find topic summaries, context, and bibliographies for further reading on your topic. Listed below are a few of these sources available through the Cypress College Library.

Note: The sources below are a great place to start your research. However, encyclopedias and work overviews are not the best sources to include in your bibliography as research in college-level writing. You can start your research with reference sources, but you should always carry that research further by finding other sources like books and scholarly articles on your topic.


The Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature
Reference Collection (PS21 .R4)

Plot Summaries and Criticism

Contemporary Literary Criticism
Reference Collection (PN771 .C59, Volumes 1-237)

Reference Collection (PN44 .M33; PN44 .M34; PN846 .M37)

Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism
Reference Collection (PN 761 .N5, Volumes 1-50)

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism
Reference Collection (PN 771 .G27, Volumes 1-154)

Dictionary of World Literature Criticism: Criticism, Forms, Technique
Reference Collection (PN41 .S5)

Genre Specific Criticism

The Contemporary Novel: A Checklist of Critical Literature on the British and American Novel Since 1945
Reference Collection (Z1231 .F4 A34)

Hispanic Literature Criticism
Reference Collection (PQ7081 .A1 H573, v. 1-2)

Poetry Criticism
Reference Collection (PN1111 .P63, v. 1-3)

Shakespearean Criticism
Reference Collection (PR2965 .S43, v. 1-10)

Short Story Criticism
Reference Collection (PN 3321 .S5, Volumes 1-99)

How do I find books about my topic?

Use Cypress College Library’s Online Catalog. If you’re looking for literary criticism about a book, type the name of the book in the text box and set the search to “Subject Browse” (this is called a Subject Search). If you need to find literary criticism about someone, do a Subject Search using the person’s last name. You can also do a Subject Search using official Library of Congress Subject Headings. Here are examples of some subject headings you might try:

  • American literature History and criticism
  • English literature History and criticism
  • Literature History and criticism
  • Short stories, American History and criticism

If you don’t find enough materials using the above methods, try using your own search terms, but instead of a Subject Search do a Keyword Search.

How do I find journal, magazine, newspaper, and other types of articles on my topic?

You can find full-text articles and biographical information by using these electronic databases:

Gale Virtual Reference—for information about a person or a topic

Literature Resource Center—for biographies of authors, criticism, articles, work overviews, bibliographies and more

EBSCOhost—use “Academic Search Complete” and “MasterFILE Complete” for articles from scholarly journals as well as popular magazines and newspapers

How do I find credible web sources on my topic?

In this section, “web pages” means the “open web”—websites anyone can access—not web-based research tools like the databases that the library provides. The open web has a lot of great things to offer, but not all the sources found there are appropriate for academic research. How can you determine if the sources you’ve found are credible? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who created the site?
  • Can you determine if the author is an expert in the field?
  • What kind of an audience was the site created for? General adult population? Scholars? 3rd graders?
  • Can you determine if there is any kind of bias expressed in the site? Is the site trying to sell you a particular point of view?
  • When was the web page last revised?
  • What is the date range of the materials covered in the site?
  • What other resources (print & non-print) are available in this area?
  • What is the relative value of the web site in comparison to the range of information resources available on this topic?

To locate some relevant, credible web sites try using one of the following subject directories. Do a search using the term “literary criticism”:

How do I get more help finding literary criticism sources?

If you feel like you need help getting started, finding more detailed materials, or if you have any questions in general, please feel free to come to the library and ask a reference librarian for help.

If you have trouble accessing this page and need help, contact a librarian at the reference desk at (714) 484-7069.