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How to Conduct Literary Research in the Library (or at home!)

A guide for students, book clubs, and curious readers

Memorial Hall Library has a variety of resources to help you conduct literary research. Resources include plot summaries, book reviews, biographical and critical information, and readers’ advisory. 

If you have questions about the resources please contact the Reference Desk by phone at 978-623-8401 Ext 32, by email at or stop by the desk.

Key to Symbols:  symbol for Book = Book    symbol for Electronic Resource = Electronic Resource

Plot Summaries

Use the following resources for descriptions of the plots of classic novels and short stories.

symbol for Electronic Resource Literary Reference Center
Access the plot summaries from the tab of an author or title search.

symbol for Electronic Resource SparkNotes
Literature study guides for selected titles.

symbol for Electronic Resource Cliffs Notes
Book summaries, character lists, and study aids.


The following list of book and electronic resources provide literary criticism.

symbol for Book Children's Literature Review JR 028.5 Chi (Children's Room)
Excerpts from reviews and criticism on books written for children and young adults.

symbol for Electronic Resource Literary Reference Center
Information listed includes links to critical analysis and reviews.

symbol for Electronic Resource Gale Infotrac Resources:
Contemporary Literary Criticism Select
A collection of critical essays on contemporary authors. You can search by author name, title of work, or genre.

General Reference Center Gold
Book reviews and critical evaluations from magazines such as Library Journal, Time, and other sources.

symbol for Electronic Resource Internet Public Library -- Online Literary Criticism Collection This Internet site, hosted the Drexel College of Information Science and Technology provides links to sites offering literary criticism. Browse by author's last name, title of the work, literary period, or nationality.

Our circulating collection includes critical analyses of authors and selected titles.

symbol for Book Bloom's Modern Critical Views
A series of books containing critical essays on individual authors and titles. Search the library catalog using Bloom and the author or title of a book as keywords ("Bloom" "Ernest Hemingway" or "Bloom" "To Kill a Mocking Bird").

symbol for Book Twaynes Critical Essays on American and British Literature
A series of critical essays on individual authors.  Search the library catalog using Twayne and an author's name as keywords (Twayne John Steinbeck").


The following resources can help you find information on a writer's background and work:

symbol for Electronic Resource Literary Reference Center
This resource provides information on an author's life, education, and career, and a bibliography of his works.

symbol for Electronic Resource symbol for Book Something About the Author JR 928 Som (Children's Room) This resource focuses especially on those who write children's and young adult books.

Reader's Advisory

Use these resources to find books for leisure reading that have been well-reviewed, and that suit your particular reading interests:

symbol for Electronic Resource Novelist Guide to Fiction
A database that links readers to recommended reads lists by age group, author read-alikes, award winners, and book discussion Guides - especially useful for book groups.

Personalized Reading Lists for Adults
Crafted by Memorial Hall Library Reference Librarians.

symbol for Electronic Resource Let Us Help Your Find a Good Book

Personalized Reading Lists for Teens
Crafted by Memorial Hall Library Teen Librarians.
symbol for Electronic Resource A Reader for Every Book, A Book for Every Reader


Last updated: October 01, 2012
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