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ENG 273: American Novel: Finding Scholarship

Scholarship is Conversation

As you conduct research for your paper, use library resources to explore the conversations around the authors, works, and themes you are most interested in. As you see what other literary scholars have written, put yourself in conversation with them. What do they have to say? Do you agree? Where do you diverge? What new ideas do you have to offer? How do your new ideas fit into and extend what literary scholars have already said?

Use the Research as Conversation tab above, as well as the Search Tips tab to help you refine your research approach. Remember that you are not trying to find any two sources that relate to your texts; you are looking for scholars who contribute to the conversation you are pursuing.

Background and Context

Think about the interdisciplinary angle on your topic. What other disciplines might be having conversations about your topic? Do historians have something to add? Or scholars who specialize in gender and/or race? Use research guides from other disciplines to identify resources in other disciplines that might be useful.

And here are some recommended reference books that might help, too. The list isn't comprehensive, so be sure to browse the nearby shelves for other books. And a reminder - the Reference Collection is on the main floor of the Library, Beck Hall side.

Looking for Literary Criticism and Context

As you take a look to see what literary scholars have said about and writer and a topic, think about these questions:

  • What theoretical approach does the author take?
  • What theme or themes does the author focus on?
  • When was this published? (Approaches to literature change over time.)
  • How does this fit with my ideas? With other scholars' ideas?

Look for criticism that is relevant and appears to be of high quality. You may have to skim a lot of works of criticism before you decide which works you think should be part of your conversation.

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan is like Amazon, but without the bills! If we don't have a book or article you want, we will get it for you. In the catalog, you can widen a search to "libraries worldwide," click on the title of the book you want, then use the "request" button. In a few days you'll get an email when the book arrives and can pick it up at the information desk.

If we don't have an article, use the "find it" option in article databases to request it. You'll get a PDF of it in a day or two.

Use the "my library account" link on the left-hand side of the library's main page to get blank forms or check on the status of your ILLs.


Julie Gilbert's picture
Julie Gilbert
Hello! I'm on sabbatical during the 2020-2021 academic year. If you have a question about research, an assignment, or the library, please contact any of the reference librarians at or via the Ask Us! button on the library's homepage.
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