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English 112 Tutorial: Literature Research

What is literary criticism?

Your professor may require you to incorporate works of literary criticism into your research paper.

Watch this 3-minute definition of literary criticism. Then scroll down for examples and differences between literary criticism and reference information.

Literary criticism versus reference information

Literary criticism Reference works
Found in books, scholarly journal articles, library databases, and sometimes websites Found in print encyclopedias, library databases, and some websites
Usually provides an opinion related to a theme, writing style, or historical/political context Can provide thematic background, plot summaries, author biographies
Although the literary criticism examples below are in different formats, these resources are considered literary criticism because they analyze and focus on particular works or writings using a particular theory or lens.  These various sources below provide background, an overview, and other information related to a work of literature but they are not considered literary criticism as they do not include in depth analysis.

Examples of literary criticism:

  • A scholarly journal article that examines the book Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain through the lens of Critical Race Theory. 
  • An eBook that analyzes the political vision found in Toni Morrison’s writings. 
  • A print book that analyzes the novel Frankenstein.




Examples of reference works:

  • An article in Credo Reference introducing the life and literary work of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein
  • A plot summary of the novella “The Yellow Paper” from MagillOnLiterature Plus.
  • A description in a print book of the different types of poetry stanzas.