How to Research Literary Criticism

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

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:

  • Choose your work.
  • Think about what you’d like to write about. What interests you?
  • Gather books, articles and web sites.
  • Read and take notes.
  • Write your paper.

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 in this guide from Purdue's Online Writing Lab.

An outline of steps included in writing a paper. This is a useful, quick reference to getting started and is from the Community College of Baltimore County. 

Writing About Literature
A guide on how to write an essay, including an outline of the elements, the writing process, citation and more. A resource from Norton's introduction to literature Study Space.

Resources for Literary Criticism Assignments

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. There are also dictionaries for words related to poetry and literary movements.

Databases can help you find journal and reference book articles on your topic:

  • 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

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.

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  specific poems, plus famous essays and poems about poetry from the University of Toronto Libraries.

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

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:

  • 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. 

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. The following online tips are from Purdue's Online Writing Lab.

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