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ENGL 184: The Short Story

Penn State Berks, ENGL 184 with Professor Jeanne Rose

Literary Criticism Search Tips

Literary criticism is the interpretation, analysis, and evaluation of an author and their literary works that is usually presented as a critical essay.  Literary criticism may focus on a specific literary work or it may analyze and interpret a specific portion of an author's writings or the author's writings as a whole.  

For your Literary Analysis Paper you will need to find three peer reviewed articles, books, and/or book chapters about your selected short story.  Finding literary criticism can be challenging.  Below are some tips to help you plan your search for literary criticism on your chosen short story:  

  • When searching the library's resources focus on the author, title of the work(s), literary genre, and literary themes associated with your subject.  The easiest route for your assignment would be to begin by searching for the title of your short story.  
    • You can narrow down your search by adding in additional terms like relevant key concepts.  
      • Note:  Be specific when possible.  It is more helpful to search for a specific short story and theme, e.g. "Fall of the House of Usher" AND "isolation", rather than typing in "Fall of the House of Usher" AND "themes".  
  • When searching for your short story use quotation marks " " to ensure you are searching for the correct work.  Quotation marks tell the database to search for those exact words in that exact order.
    • Examples:
      • "Fall of the House of Usher"
      • "The Yellow Wallpaper"
  • The articles you discover will not always state "this article is about character and conflict in story X".  Instead  you must understand your selected key concept and short story and think critically to look for terminology and clues to indicate whether the article pertains to your topic.  
  • If you are overwhelmed with deciding which key concept to use with your short story selection, conduct some preliminary searches in the databases to see what literary critics are saying about your text.

General Databases

These databases include literary criticism resources among other disciplinary research:

Literary Criticism Databases

These databases focus specifically on literary theory and criticism:

Get the Full Text

Once you find the citation, try the Get It!   button to see if Penn State has the electronic or print version of the article you need. If the electronic version is available, it will appear as the first link on the Get it! menu. If the article is not available electronically, click on The CAT link to automatically search our catalog and see if Penn State has a print copy. If no other copy is available, you use the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) link to request it from another library.  ILL will get a copy of the article for you, typically at no cost; articles usually arrive within a week, often in as few as 2-3 days. Watch your PSU email for notification and further instructions.