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French Language & Literature

Three Types of Information You Need

There are three types of information you will need to find as you begin your literary research.  These are:

Primary Sources Background Information Works of Secondary Literary Criticism

You will obviously engage with the primary source material(s) the most, as you analyze the plot, setting, point of view, characterization, symbol, metaphor, genre, use of irony, etc.  However, other key information is background information about the author's historical, social, political or economic context, particularly when the work was written.  Biographical information can be helpful here.  In addition, depending upon your instructor, you will also engage with any number of other works of secondary literary criticism written by experts in the field of literature.

Finding Primary Sources

To find primary sources, perform an author search in OneSearch.

You can use OneSearch to find primary sources.  You can do a keyword search for the name of the person, but a more focused way to search for biographical sources is to choose "Library Catalog" at the top of the search page, choose  "Author/Creator" from the drop down list, and then put the name of the person in the search box in this format "LastName, FirstName" (ex. "Allende, Isabel").  

The results will be all the materials we have in the library that are authored by that person.

Getting Background Information

To get scholarly biographical or background information on an author or a literary work or movement, search one of these databases, which also can be found in print in the reference section.


You can also find background/biographical information in OneSearch by performing a subject search.

You can use OneSearch to find primary sources.  You can do a keyword search for the name of the person, but a more focused way to search for biographical sources is to choose "Library Catalog" at the top of the search page, choose  "Subject" from the drop down list, and then put the name of the person in the search box in this format "LastName, FirstName" (ex. "Allende, Isabel") and then choose "Subject" on the next line and put in the term "Biography".  

The results will be all the materials we have in the library that are biographies of that particular person.

Finding Criticism

To find criticism of a literary work, search the MLA International Bibliography for your topic, author or literary work.  You can combine keywords (i.e. "Gabriel Garcia Marquez" and "magical realism") to limit your list of results.  You can also limit your results by language. 

While searching the MLA will most likely provide you with a good set of results, there are a few other literary databases listed on this guide (see "Finding Books & Articles) which can sometimes provide some good results too.  Those databases are not only for literature, so you may have to wade through extraneous results.


You can also find literary criticism on your author or work in OneSearch by performing a subject search with this formula

You can use OneSearch to find primary sources.  You can do a keyword search for the name of the person, but a more focused way to search for biographical sources is to choose "Library Catalog" at the top of the search page, choose  "Subject" from the drop down list, and then put the name of the person in the search box in this format "LastName, FirstName" (ex. "Allende, Isabel") and then choose "Subject" on the next line and put in the term "Criticism and Interpretation".  

The results will be all the materials we have in the library that are about that author and his or her works.

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