Memorial Hall Library

How to Conduct Literary Research

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 978-623-8430, by email at, or stop by the desk.

Plot Summaries

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

  • SparkNotes
    Literature study guides for selected titles
  • Cliffs Notes
    Book summaries, character lists, and study aids


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

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

  • 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").
  • 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:

  • Literature Resource Center
    This resource provides information on an author's life, education, and career, and a bibliography of his works.

Reader's Advisory

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