Skip to Main Content Shenandoah University

Literature: Home

Approaches for Researching Works of Literature

There are many ways to research a work of literature. You might look for information about:

  • Features of the work itself
  • How the work fits within the author’s body of work
  • How elements of the work conform (or not) to expectations of a genre or a form
  • Themes contained in the work
  • The cultural context in which the work was written/published
  • How readers respond to the work

Getting Started with Background Information

Use online encyclopedias and other reference books to start your research with an overview of your topic and suggestions for further reading.

Featured Reference Books

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

This full-text resource contains the entire text of the 22-volume Oxford English Dictionary, second edition. It provides definitions, pronunciations and the history of each word with examples from literary sources.

The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms

Providing clear and concise definitions of the most troublesome literary terms, the bestselling Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms is an essential reference tool for students of literature in any language. Now expanded and in its fourth edition.

Civil Rights Literature

This volume examines key works of the African-American civil rights debate past and present, and it explores issues of gender equality and sexual orientation integral to civil rights studies. A good starting point for students seeking an introduction to the theme and the critical discussions surrounding it.

The Handy Literature Answer Book

Get the most out of reading with this an engaging and fun guide to the themes, symbols, forms, context, and literary devices in great works of literature.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature

This set treats the whole of American literature, from the European discovery of America to the present, with entries in alphabetical order. Each of the 350 substantive essays is a major interpretive contribution.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature

From folk ballads to film scripts, this new five-volume encyclopedia covers the entire history of British literature from the seventh century to the present, focusing on the writers and the major texts of what are now the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Need help?

  • Search our FAQ: