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Humanities Department Collection and State Library Resources

Literary Criticism for High School and College Students

Do you need to write an A+ literature research paper about a well-known author and his or her works? Does your instructor expect an outline and note cards for your paper? What is literary criticism and where do you find it? How do you write a thesis statement? These are some of the typical questions you might have before beginning a literature research paper. Read on for the answers to these questions and other helpful information.

What is Literary Criticism?

Literary criticism is an informed analysis and evaluation of a work of literature.

The Literature Resource Center (LRC)

The Literature Resource Center is an online full-text database that accesses biographies, bibliographies and critical analyses of more than 120,000 authors from every age and literary discipline. It provides novel, short story, drama, poetry, and some non-fiction criticism and interpretation.

You can access the Literature Resource Center at any Enoch Pratt Free Library branch or from your computer at home with a Pratt Library Card. You can also check with your local public or college library about accessing the LRC.

There are a number of ways to search Gale’s Literature Resource Center, including by:

  • Name of Work,
  • Person,
  • Keyword,
  • Time Period,
  • Content Type (Criticism, Overviews, Reviews, etc.)

Prose Resources

Prose is literature that attempts to mirror the language of everyday speech. Novels, short stories, and essays are examples of prose.



Literary Criticism at Library Spot

Links to online literary criticism resources, including to The Atlantic Monthly, which offers book reviews dating back to the 19th century, and to Shakespeare criticism, feminist criticism, and American literature research sites.

Literary Criticism from The Internet Public Library

Literary terms and concepts, author information, and criticism with summaries.
Short Story Criticism
Produced by the Hilton C. Buley Library of Southern Connecticut State University, this site lists numerous paper and online sources specifically about the short story genre.

Poetry Resources

Many of the resources listed above can also be used for poetry criticism, especially the Literature Resource Center.


Academy of American Poets Teaching Resource Center

A well organized collection of links to poetry-related sites, including glossaries of poetic terms and critical essays on poets and their works.

Prose and Verse Criticism of Poetry

Created by the University of Toronto, a compilation of criticism about specific poems, plus famous essays and poems about poetry.

Sonnet Central

Reading a sonnet by Shakespeare or another poet? This is a helpful source that discusses sonnets by time period and nationality and has links to commentaries and audio files.

Writing Your Paper

When you have found literary criticism for your research paper, you may need further help with your writing. An excellent resource is the Owl Online Writing Lab, which offers help for the following topics:

  • How to start a research paper.
  • Examples of literary topics.
  • Pointers on what makes a good literature paper.
  • Ideas on writing about fiction, developing a thesis, and drafting your essay.

Dictionaries of Literary Terms

The following offer help in defining and understanding literary terms, names of literary movements and schools of literary theory.


Gale Glossary of Terms Alphabetical listing including examples and cross-references.

Virtual Salt Another thorough glossary of literary terms.

Creating a Bibliography 

Assembling a List of Works Cited in Your Paper

Hosted by Duke University Libraries, this site offers side by side comparisons of citations using the APA, Chicago, MLA, Turabian, and CSE styles.

Research and Documentation Online

Information contained here includes using MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE styles to cite and document print and electronic sources.

MLA Works Cited Documentation Guide

Hosted by Kingwood Library at Lone Star College, this site gives the most up-to-date rules and examples of the MLA citation style for print and online resources.

Ask Us 

If you would like further help in finding literary criticism, e-mail us through our Ask-A-Librarian service, call us at (410) 396-5487 or mail your question to:

Humanities Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore MD 21201

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