How to Research Literary Criticism

Writing a book report or report on a poem, or play? If so, we can offer some resources to help you with your research. These include online and print resources.  


What is Literary Criticism?

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

Getting Started

Ask your local librarian for help – we’re always glad to recommend resources.

Outline to help you start your research and writing:

General Resources

What Makes a Good Literature Paper
An overview explaining how to write about literature. Additional essays about writing, such as formatting, can be found here.

Writing - from the Community College of Baltimore County
An outline of steps included in writing a paper. Useful as a quick reference to getting started.

Writing About Literature
A guide on how to write an essay, including an outline of the elements, the writing process, citation and more.

Writing Commons: Literary Criticism
This essay explains why people write papers about literature  and is useful for more context.

The Pratt Library has several resources for your literary criticism assignment.

A librarian can help you locate books in the Pratt Library Catalog by author, title, or subject. Books include literary works (texts), author biographies, and literary criticism.

Databases can help you find journal and reference book articles on your topic. You can search databases in any Pratt Library and from home with a Pratt Library card. Articles are also available in print journals in the Periodicals Department.

For Literary Criticism:

  • Literary Sources: Artemis
  • Virtual Reference Library, (Gale)

For reviews, new and older:

  • National Newspapers
  • Historical Newspapers

For biographical information:

  • Biography in Context

If you’re in looking for the text of an African American work:

  • Black Drama
  • Black Short Fiction
  • African American Poetry, 1750-1990
  • African American Poetry, Twentieth Century

Poetry Resources

Poetry Foundation’s Learning Lab
Provides a great deal of information, including biographies, poetry and theory.

RPO: Representative Poetry Online
Compilation of criticism about specific poems, plus famous essays and poems about poetry.

For information about poetry the following the following web sites provide poems, resources for teachers, and an array of articles.

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

Movie clapper

Film Resources

If you’re new to film studies and want to pick up the terms, this guide will help.

Movie Review Query Engine
A site for film reviews.

Theater Resources

These two web sites discuss how to write a review of a play:

Writing Your Paper

The Owl Online Writing Lab, offers help for the following topics:

Literary Terms and Literary Movements

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

Literary Devices
An alphabetical list of literary terms, many with examples.

Style Manuals

Style manuals are set guidelines on how to prepare a research paper. The guidelines include the paper’s format and how citations are created. You can find the guidelines listed below online or at your local library.

Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (APA)
Used for psychology, business, education, and other social sciences.

Chicago Style

Used for history, literature, and the arts.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual
Used for literature.

Contact Us

If you need more help 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