A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Library Research
Step I: Bibliographies and Citations

Start with the work that other people have done. Because bibliographies provide a spur to reading and research about a given author or field, some scholars compile bibliographies as labors of love. Others compile bibliographies as labors of labor: editors of classroom editions of texts often provide bibliographies as supplemental sections, and scholarly publications use bibliographical notes to document some of the author's own research process.

  • Bibliographies in editions of your text

    These are nearly always at least a little useful, and some of them are great. Be sure to check the recentness of the bibliographical research by scanning the bibliography to find the latest dates.
  • Online or print bibliographies focusing on texts or authors

    Many topics will not have pre-researched, topical bibliographies on which to draw, but searching for them is well worth a few minutes of your time. Do keyword searches in the library catalog and in an internet search engine for "bibliography" and your author or topic.
  • Works Cited lists or bibliographical notes in recent articles or books

    Here the process becomes less formal and more exploratory. Start with a small number of sources chosen for their topicality and recentness. Find the most recent books on your topic held by the library, for instance, or articles in the Project Muse database, which contains more current sources than most others. Use book introductions and articles to glean whatever information you can about other works related to your interests. Look especially for indications of special importance, as in the works called "foundational" or "groundbreaking" or "classic."
  • Companion volumes

    Cambridge, Oxford, Blackwell, Routledge, and other publishers are rapidly producing books called companions or guides to literary authors and periods. These guides provide bibliographies that are often useful.
  • MLA bibliography (part of the Literature Resource Center; Grinnell link)

    By far the most general and comprehensive of these sources, the MLA bibliography has the advantage and disadvantage that it does not attempt to interpret or rank the texts it describes. Whereas the first three approaches here involve capitalizing on the insights and preferences of other scholars, searching the MLA bibliography may help you find lesser-known sources that may nonetheless have special relevance to your project. For the same reasons, you may also want to try Google Scholar or Google Books. If you access the MLA bibliography or Google Scholar from a computer on the campus network, the search results will sometimes provide handy links to resources the library owns.

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