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ENGL 2323 -- (Prof. Jones)

The purpose of this research guide is to help students in Prof. Bobby Jones's ENGL 2323 classes to find information for their literary essay assignments.

Choosing a Topic

What Is Your Topic?

As Prof. Jones explains in the instructions for this assignment, you have a great deal of freedom in choosing a topic. You are not allowed to summarize an author's works or write a biography. So you should start with an author and narrow down your topic as described in this video.

Let's say, for example, that you have decided to write about Samuel Taylor Coleridge. You could write about a particular theme in his poetry, such as:

  • Samuel Coleridge and justice
  • Samuel Coleridge and Gothicism
  • Samuel Coleridge and exoticism

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

Pre-Research and Keywords

Do Some Pre-Research

Pre-research is an important step in the information research process. Here's why. Let's say that you have decided to write about exoticism in the poetry of Samuel Coleridge. Without looking at a dictionary, can you define exoticism as a literary term? How many poems of Samuel Coleridge have you read?

Pre-research means doing the necessary work so that you understand your own topic. You could do a database search for exoticism in the poems of Samuel Coleridge, but how would you know if the search results are relevant if you can't define exoticism or are familiar with the poems of Coleridge?

So begin your pre-research. If you're writing about the works of an author, read works by that author. If you're writing about a particular literary theme, symbol, or motif, search in these databases for information about that aspect of literature. Use the two databases at the bottom of this books to do some pre-research.

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 the example of exoticism in the works of Samuel Coleridge, you may discover that scholars have used the term "orientalism" to describe European fascination with often fictional descriptions of Asian cultures. So you might search for:

  • Samuel Coleridge and exoticism
  • Samuel Coleridge and orientalism

You may also wish to experiment with adding the name of a literary work that is especially relevant to your topic. For example, Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan" is very much in the exotic or orientalist tradition, so you could search for:

  • Coleridge and exoticism and Kubla Khan
  • Coleridge and exoticism and Kubla Khan

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.


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.

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