English 3883 American Literature II

General Library Information

John Vaughan Library Physical Overview Tutorial
Library of Congress Classification system.
The Research Strategies CLIP tutorial can provide an overview to getting started in researching a topic.

Finding a Work of Fiction

Library Catalog is used to find anthologies of short stories and general criticism about short stories (Short stories, American--History and criticism). Do an author search on the author's last name.  To find a specific short story in an anthology, use the Short Story Index  (Ref. PN 3373.C62)

Defining Terms

Ref. PE 1106.C65 1985    A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language
Ref. PN 41.H36 1992       Dictionary of Concepts in Literary  Criticism and Theory
Ref. PE 1625.O87 1991   Oxford English Dictionary.  (Gives the etymology of   words)
Ref. PN 41.H6                 A Handbook to Literature (Defines literary terms)


Ref. PR 56.B34            A Research Guide for Undergraduate Students: English and American Literature

Cycle of Information

The cycle of information is an interesting one.  Research starts with an idea.  Someone becomes curious about something and wants to explore it.  Literature reviews are conducted, empirical evidence is gathered.  The reseoberg may wish to cross disciplinary lines and take a literary theory and apply it to another field.  The reseoberg writes an article.  If the article adds to the body of knowledge or presents a new concept, a journal in that discipline might be interested in publishing it. Article submissions go through a reviewing process in which multiple reviewers will read and comment on the article.  This is an example of a refereed journal article. If it passes the review process, the article is published in the journal.  Indexers read journal articles and assign subject headings to the articles and place the citation in indexes (such as MLA Bibliography).  Reseobergs comb indexes to find articles, and the whole cycle starts over.  This is a cycle that occurs right here at NSU.  Our faculty and students are publishing.  You can become a part of the process, too. Exciting, isn't it?

The Flow of Information (from the University System of Georgia) depicts how information about an event can be represented in different types of resources. Understanding how information is disseminated helps to know where to look and the attributes of each format.

General Concepts

When approaching a database, look for help screens for complete information on how to search it effectively.  Check for scope notes that identify the contents of the database.  Check for advanced search screens and see different ways that the search can be limited.  For instance, what dates and types of materials are included in the database? Can it be searched by full text and subject?  Can the search be limited by date, language or full text? Each database uses controlled subject headings that can be accessed through the online Thesaurus.  For instance, in ERIC, writing centers are called writing laboratories.

Locating Literary Criticism

Digests, Synopses, Author Biographies

Biography and Genealogy Master Index Useful database when it is unknown what biographical source to use
Ref. PS 153.A84A828 2003 Asian American Short Story Writers
Ref. PS 153.N5B556 1992 Black Literature Criticism
Ref. PN 451.D32   Dictionary of Literary Biography
Ref. PS 21.H3 1983 Oxford Companion to American Literature
Ref. PS 21.B46 1991 Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature
Ref. PS 129.R44 2000 Reference Guide to American Literature
MagillOnLiterature Plus  Contains fulltext of author biographies, summaries of works, and basic criticism.
Literature Resource Center  Contains fulltext of author biographies, brief criticisms, and some criticial journal articles.

Use the Library Catalog to find full-length biographies and criticisms of authors.  WorldCat is a wonderful database which lists all published resources (Not specific journal articles, but books, facsimile editions, AV, dissertations, etc.)  Use the databases listed in the next section to find biographical articles about authors.

Criticisms on Specific Works

The following databases are useful for research on authors and specific works. Search by the author's last name and an important word from the title of the work.  You can also include a particular aspect.  For instance, if searching for the religious aspects found in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily", try searching <faulkner and rose and sex*>  
Note:  In EbscoHost the * is a truncation symbol which will look for sex, sexuality,  etc.

Humanities Full Text
MLA Bibliography

There are also literary explictors that index that indicate where criticisms can be found, in either books or journals, on specific works.  An index to those resources is Twentieth Century Short Story Explication (Ref. PN 3733.W35)

Internet Resources

Of course, there are many resources available through the Web. The librarian for the department has created the English page which lists some useful Web sites. The Eserver is a very good English Web site. The library provides a list of search engines.  Search the following Web pages for interesting resources:  The Internet Public Library, Best Information on the Net,  Infomineand Librarians' Index to the Internet.

American Literature Sites
Library of Congress, American Memory, Literature

Cross Disciplinary Sources

Whether researching literary topics or other fields in English, it is important to remember to look outside the field for information.  Historical materials are useful and can be found in books and articles using such databases as America History and Life, Academic Search Premier, and Humanities Full Text.  Education journals are helpful and can be found in ERIC and Education Full Text. Other useful disciplines can include psychology, religion, and philosophy.

Evaluating Sources

With all resources, it is important to assess the quality of what you find.  Use the following checklist to assist with that determination:

1. Identify the author(s) and determine his/her credentials.  Does the author have a degree in the field; is the author a professor; does the author have other works published on similar topics?
2. What is the date of the publication?  Currency is important in most fields.  It is especially important for Web pages.
3. Does the publisher have a good reputation?  Is the resource published by a professional association or university press?  Is the journal refereed? For Web sites, check the URL to determine the sponsor.  Gov sites are government sites; com are commercial; edu are educational.
4. How do the critics perceive the work?  Are there reviews available?
5. Is the material complete?  Does it have an index, bibliography. Is it well written with few grammatical or spelling errors?
6. Is the language slanted or biased?
7. Does it include references to well known facts or research studies?
8. For Web pages, do the links work? 

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan is available for books and journal articles not available at NSU.  Use the ILLiad system to order materials from other libraries.  Allow several weeks for the materials to arrive.

Citing Sources

To avoid plagiarism, it is important to cite materials correctly. Indiana University has a good guide on plagiarism. To cite the resources that you've found, check the Citation tutorial. The M.L.A. Handbook for Writers of Research Papers is located on the first floor of the library, Ready Ref. LB 2369.G53.  Also, try the MLA Web site.  For help in citing sources, try KnightCite Bibliography Machine.

Professional Associations

American Literature Association

    SophiaBeverley Threatt, MLS, MA
    Instructor of Library Services
    Languages and Literature and Communication, Art, & Theatre
    Resource Coordinator
    (918) 444-3267

Page maintained by: SB Threatt
Last Updated: 08/02/2012