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How do I conduct literary research?

Using library databases to find literary criticism

Why books?

Why use books for literary research

Books can provide clear, concise literary criticism that focuses on specific works (novels, stories) and that highlights things such as themes or symbolism.  A good way to see whether a book has something that is needed for research is to check the table of contents (located towards the front of the book) or the index (located towards the end of the book).  Ebooks are even more useful in this respect, as they can be searched.

Search QuickSearch for Books

Step 1:

Start on the library's homepage, and look for the "Find Books" box.

Library homepage find books box


Step 2:

Click the keyword drop-down menu, and decide which search is best to use. A keyword search will broaden your results, while a subject search will give you narrowed, more targeted results.

  • Keyword - This searches for the word(s) in the entire catalog record. The word(s) could appear in the summary of the book or in a chapter title, as well as in the title of the book or the subject terms. For this reason, you will get more results.
  • Author - Select this option to search for books by the author's name.  
  • Title - Select this to option to only search for the word(s) in the title of the books.
  • Subject - Librarians tag every book with subject terms that describe what the book is about. Select this option to limit your search to just these terms. For example, the book The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball has these subject terms:
    Limit search to subjects


Step 3:

Review your results. You will see a mixture of physical books (labeled Circulating Collection) and ebooks.  Look in the availability section to note if it's a physical item or one you can access online.

Location of book physical or access online


Step 4:

Decide what you're interested in and then follow these instructions:

Can't find what you're looking for?