What is this page for?
GEW is not only to develop your writing skill, but more importantly, introduce you to scholarly discussion based on a text you read. You are then to write a paper on the text, or a concept introduced in the text, as your assignment.
Papers such as these are not opinion pieces saying you liked it or didn't like it. Generally you are asked to make an analysis of an element, technique, or theme that you noted while reading the text. It may also be a discussion of what the author was trying to argue or persuade the reader to think, how accurate their representation is, or how the author tells the story. How you focus the paper will be discussed by your instructor in class and in your writing prompt.
With prompt in hand and text read, this is where research comes in. The pages for this course guide are to help you locate the scholarly and review publications you need to include in your paper, with a page on using the proper MLA citation for the work you are incorporating into your essay.
Come to terms with...
There are some specialized terms in literature research that you should understand before starting your research.
- Criticism (literary or literature): This is not the negative meaning that one thinks of when hearing this word in daily conversation. In literature, this means you are examining the work and its meaning, intent and structure, but does not mean 'good' or 'bad'. Simply that you are looking at the work for more than entertainment.
- Analysis: The same as criticism, but does not have the immediate meaning of negativity that you get from the word 'criticism'.
- Review: This is a summary of the story and is NOT what you are doing in your analysis. Remember, your instructor has read the work and does not need a condensed version in your essay.
- Scholarly publications: You need to use the best of the best for university-level research. This means using publications (books or articles) that have been written by scholars who specialize in your author or literature genre. To determine whether scholarly or not, refer to this short guide.
Starting your research...
1. Before searching, strategize what you need! The prompt will not only tell you how to address the text or topic, but tell you how many scholarly resources you need. Keep in mind that number is the MINIMUM required. Finding additional relevant books and articles will give you more to include in your own work.
2. What are you being asked to do?
- This essay may be either analysis of the author's style or intent.
- What is the author's background and belief system?
- What have they said about their work and its intent?
- What is the author's genre (writing style, e.g., magical realism, war narrative, investigative reporting, autobiographical...)
- This essay may be researching and writing on a topic you see in the text.
- Think about the topic that interests you most. Some themes seen frequently in literature are:
- Class distinction (wealth and poverty)
- What theme dominates the text?
- Morality tale
You may be interested in two or more themes and will find the easiest way to choose one is to find what has been written on each. The more that has been published in the scholarly literature on a theme, the better, as you can select the best from a number of sources to support your view and analysis.
From the prompt(s), write down a set of keywords to use in starting your searches for books, articles and reviews. Those keywords can be used in place of the examples given in the other pages of this guide. As you work, continue to note new related terms that you see and write down questions that arise and comments that you have. You may not use everything in your final work, but save yourself trying to recall what you found earlier and now do not remember where.
Also, keep in mind that computers (search engines) are literal. There is no correction for mispelling and the search algorithm will only match the characters you type in. If you are searching for information on gender issues in Maya Angelou's works, try the words 'women' or 'female' as well. The articles you need maybe specifically using those terms instead. (e.g., "The Song of a Caged Bird: Maya Angelou's Quest after Self-Acceptance." did not return in a search using the term 'gender' in the MLA database.)
Last Update: January 21, 2015 08:51