When writing about literature, you follow the same basic conventions required of any expository essay. That is, you

--state a thesis in your introduction

--develop that thesis by giving supporting reasons and evidence in the body of the essay

--conclude with a summary of your main points and a restatement of the thesis

--cite and document any quotes.

There are a few conventions in writing about literature of which you should be aware.

Your textbook, Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, has chapters containing detailed instructions on how to write about fiction, poetry, and drama. Each section includes examples of rough drafts, revisions, and completed papers. Each section also has a "workbook," in which a specific short story, poem, or play is analyzed by both student and professional writers; student essays and professional articles are included. I strongly recommend that you read these; they will give you a much clearer idea of what is expected of your papers.

For information on using MLA format to cite and document correctly, see The Writing Tutorial Services at Indiana University, or The Purdue University Online Writing Lab.


As long as you're registered at LA Harbor College, you have access to a number of databases through the Harbor College library. Don't be scared by that word "databases." The databases are just collected electronic versions of articles published in print magazines, journals, and newspapers. They also sometimes contain e-books. You can search them and find tons of articles on all subjects from many periodicals, including professional and scholarly journals.

For your projects, as a first step in the research, I would go to the databases main page and try one of the unspecialized databases, "All EBSCO Databases." From there, scan the list of databases to see which one is most likely to have information useful to you. The most effective way to search these databases is to use the "keyword" option at first, to get the broadest search results. You will probably find many more articles than you need. That's okay--it just gives you lots of choices.

You can access the databases from the following link; from there, just follow the directions to log into the system:


Please let me know if you have any questions or need help.

About Wikipedia, SparkNotes, and Databases

DO NOT cite Wikipedia in academic essays. Since it is not edited by reputable experts, it often has errors and isn't reliable. It's okay to use it as a starting point for your own research, but go on and find other sources to verify the information, and cite those in your essay.

Also avoid SparkNotes, ENotes and similar sites. Teachers hate them since they provide only the most superficial analyses. Avoid citing them in academic papers; instead, go find analyses from more reputable academic sources: university and scholarly websites, peer-reviewed journals in library databases, and books.

And if you need help getting started or with a rough draft, please feel free to see me in my office (my office location and hours are posted on the Schedule) or e-mail me at annw708@earthlink.net.