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ENGL 2322 -- (Prof. Villanasco)

The purpose of this research guide is to help students find and cite information sources for the Comparative Literature Paper assignment in Prof. Villanasco's class.

Choosing a Topic

What Is Your Topic?

As Prof. Villanasco explains in the instructions for this assignment, you are to compare modern American values or society with the values or experiences of the characters in a work of literature you are assigned to read this semester for ENGL 2322.

Let's say, for example, that you have decided to write about The Tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare. You could consider comparing:

  • Marriage in modern America and the setting of Othello
  • Race and ethnicity in modern America and the setting of Othello
  • Criminal justice in modern America and the setting of Othello

Once you have developed a topic, you should seek approval for it from Prof. Villanasco.

Pre-Research and Keywords

Do Some Pre-Research

Pre-research is an important step in the information research process. Pre-research means doing the necessary work so that you understand your own topic. Let's continue our example of comparing marriage in Othello and modern America. Your first task is to read Othello. After all, how would you know that articles that you read in a database if you didn't know what Othello is about? So read your text first.

Then consider getting basic definitions of the terms that you are researching. What is marriage? What is marriage in the United States? Background information -- that is, pre-research -- can help you detect relevant articles from database search results.

Develop Keywords

As the video embedded above explains, keywords are search terms that you use in the library databases and catalog in order to find information that is relevant to your research needs. Your pre-research may suggest related words that you may wish to search for. For example, if you do pre-research for Othello and marriage, you may find that Othello's wife was named Desdemona and her alleged adultery was the source of their dispute. So you might search for:

  • Othello and marriage
  • Othello and love
  • Othello and adultery
  • Othello and Desdemona

If your keywords aren't producing useful results when you search for them, ask me (or any other librarian) for help.

Introduction to Databases

Database Basics

Now that you have keywords, it's time to search the databases. Have you used the databases before? If you don't have recent experience with our library's databases, then I suggest watching this introductory video.

Database: Academic Search Complete

How to Use Academic Search Complete

The video embedded above shows you how to search Academic Search Complete, which is a database of magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals on a wide variety of subjects. It includes many articles of literary criticism, which is your current field of research. Search it for scholarly journal articles on your topic.

Database: Literature Resource Center

How to Use Literature Resource Center

Another literature-focused database to search is Literature Resource Center. The above video shows you how to search it.

Database: JSTOR

How to Use JSTOR

JSTOR is a database of scholarly journals in the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences. It contains many works of literary criticism. The above video shows you how to search it.


How to Search eBooks

We have two excellent ebook databases. These let you read full-text books online. The interfaces can be confusing, so I have included a tutorial video for each one.

The video above shows you how to search the ebook database titled EBSCO eBook Collection.

The video above shows you how to search the database ProQuest EBook Central.

Primary Sources


How to Avoid Plagiarism

Plagiarism is using someone else's work and giving the impression that it is yours. This video describes plagiarism in detail and how you can avoid it.

In addition to watching this video, you should look at this brochure about academic integrity from the college. It describes plagiarism and other forms of cheating as defined by the Lone Star College System.

MLA Documentation

How to Cite Your Sources

You must cite your sources according to the MLA style of documentation.

This is our video that introduces MLA documentation. I urge you to watch the entire video carefully before starting to write your paper or annotated bibliography. It is much easier to cite correctly as you go along, rather than try to fix your documentation after you have written your paper.

This is our sample paper. When you're writing a paper, you can model the formatting of your paper after this one. If you are unsure how to set up the formatting in Microsoft Word so that it fits the requirements for MLA formatting, you could instead download this blank Word document that has the formatting already set up for you.

This is our 2-page handout that summarizes the MLA style. It includes most of the types of sources that students commonly use.

Sample Annotated Bibliographies

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