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Literature, Literary Criticism, Book Reviews, and Author Information

This guide will help you get started with research into authors and literary criticism. Use the tabs below to navigate through the guide.

What Type of Database Should You Start With?

Selecting the right database can be the best way to find relevant sources. If you're looking for a work of literature like the novel Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison or a play by Thornton Wilder, you should try the Quick Search on the Pace Library website. Also explore the Full Text Literature page on this guide (see left column).

If you have a research assignment and are looking for books and articles about a novel, short story, poem, or play you may want to start with a general database, like Academic Search Ultimate and then move on to a more specialized one like Gale Literature.  If you can't seem to find anything on your research topic, try different keywords or another database.  Remember, you can always ask for help by using Ask A Librarian.

research database:

  • can be subject specific (e.g. exclusively about literature)  or multidisciplinary (about many academic disciplines).
  • may include citationsfull text, or a mix (some full text but not 100%) from hundreds or thousands of periodicals
  • Look for the in databases like Academic Search Ultimate and MLA International Bibliography. This powerful tool searches for the full-text article across all the library's electronic resources. If it can't find the article, it will point you to our Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service, ILLiad.

The Difference between Book Reviews and Literary Criticism

When your professor requires that you read and cite only peer-reviewed journal articles, you should exclude any book reviews.  Book reviews may be acceptable sources if the author or work is very contemporary and little or no literary criticism has been published. Furthermore, most book reviews include a great deal of analysis and interpretation. However, reviews lack footnotes or citations and are not peer reviewed. Overall, a book review is the opinion of one professional book reader.

Not all book reviews appear upon the first publication date of a book. A film version of a book may appear years or even decades after the initial book publication (for example, Bambi, by Felix Salten--later a Disney movie), and this event may lead to brand new reviews of the book. Also, new editions of a novel may lead to new reviews in cultural magazines like The New Yorker and Harper's.

Book reviews may be exactly what you are looking for. For example, you may want to read and cite book reviews if your paper is a study of the reception of a book in popular media over the decades. Here's a fun article about when book reviewers did not like books that went on to become "classics."

One clarification on the chart: It's not exactly accurate to say that book reviewers have no formal training in literary criticism. That is an exagerration to make the point that literary criticism almost always appears in scholarly journals, where professors publish their new ideas. Also, literary criticism appears in books, not just journals. For example, all the books edited by Harold Bloom are works of literary criticism.