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English 102 (ENG 102): English Composition II -Literary Research: Getting Started

Use this guide to begin your literary research. Find primary, secondary, and tertiary sources and get help with citation.


Welcome to the English Composition II libguide! Use this guide to get started on your research into literary research and criticism.

Comp II Library Use Instruction Session (Start Here)

From Your Instructor

For your last major writing assignment (worth 150 pts.), you are required to write a five-page (six with the Works Cited page) research-based analytical essay on one or more poems/stories/plays from Literature: The Human Experience. You must have a minimum of five cited secondary sources which help to interpret the primary text(s).  Also, you are required to use library database sources. General internet sources are not allowed.


The assignment requires an analysis of the literary work you’ve selected using sources of criticism which comment directly on the primary source (i.e. the poem, story, or play that you are analyzing).  Thus you are to provide an interpretation of the work which is framed within the larger critical commentary available, perhaps acknowledging which sources are in agreement with your point of view and which may differ, citing both the primary source(s) and the secondary sources—the articles and such—where appropriate. You may structure your analysis using one of the modes we have learned already in the course (pattern analysis, comparison and contrast, etc.), but this is not required.  


Your essay will be graded on how well your own interpretation of the text(s) is integrated with or informed by your secondary sources...using quotes and paraphrases (from both primary and secondary sources) to illuminate the ideas, themes, or meaning of said text(s). The previously established rules regarding font and formatting still apply, and both in-text citations as well as the Works Cited page must follow the guidelines provided in your MLA Handbook.


Bad Criticism

Bad criticism lacks universal appeal. In this video, The Onion Film Standard's Peter Rosenthal makes it all about him. How does this help us understand the work being critiqued? How does this provide us anything useful for deeper connection with the artform? Short answer: It doesn't. For this assignment, you want to find good criticism. What does that look like? Check out the tabs above.


Cite Your Sources

Why do you need to cite sources?

As the MLA Handbook (8th ed) will tell you:

“Academic writing is at its root a conversation among scholars about a topic or question. . . .Given the importance of this conversation to research, authors must have comprehensible, verifiable means of referring to one another’s work.  Such reference enable them to give credit to the precursors whose ideas they borrow, build on, or contradict and allow future researchers interested in the history of the conversation to trace it back to its beginning” (5).

As a student, part of your education includes learning documentation styles like MLA.  Learning MLA and other styles will help prepare you for other conventions and standards when you enter a career field.  Also, by carefully documenting your research and by identifying the ideas that you have borrowed, you will avoid plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a very serious offense involving the theft of intellectual property, and it can lead to embarrassment, loss of credibility, and even lawsuits (7).  You can avoid plagiarizing by citing other authors when you quote or paraphrase their words and ideas.  Check out the 'citation help' box (to the right) for resources on how to cite books, websites, and articles.  Make sure you are properly citing sources in your papers.

Work Cited

Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook, 8th edition, MLA, 2016.