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Literary Criticism: How to Find It: Choosing Topics

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Choosing Topics

Whether undergraduate literary research is easy or hard very often has to do with the topic or literary work you have chosen to write about. The process does not have to be nerve-wracking and take forever. Here are some tips regarding topic selection which are offered by an experienced reference librarian to help make the research process as stress-free as possible.

Tip One

It is easier to find criticism on works of authors from the past than on works by contemporary authors. It takes time for a body of critical writing about an author or literary work to grow.

Tip Two

It is easier, obviously, to find criticism on works by well-known authors than on works by those not so famous.

Tip Three

Larger works, like novels and plays, seem to attract more critical attention than individual short stories, essays, or poems.

Tip Four

Don't finalize your topic too soon. Consider two or three works of literature, do some quick, preliminary searching for each title in the tools introduced in this research guide, and choose the one on which you can find the most information most quickly.  

Tip Five

Unless, of course, an obsure work or work by a contemporary author is something you are passionately interested in. Then ignore Tips One through Four, and choose it. Reference librarians are available to help you.

Emily Dickinson