Writing About Literature

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.

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.

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DO NOT cite Wikipedia in academic essays.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. 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 good material. There's more about how to use the databases on the Writing About Literature page.

Using the Databases

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

http://libguides.lahc.edu/az.php

For most of these essays, you are not required to do outside research. But if you choose to do some research, as a first step, I would go to the databases main page and try one of the unspecialized databases, "All EBSCO Databases." Academic OneFile, Literature Resource Center, Magill OnLiterature Plus, and Salem Literature are also good. Also check JSTOR; it doesn't specialize in literature, but it does have articles in that field. The most effective way to search these databases is to use the "keyword" option at first, to get the broadest search results. Then you can refine by switching to "author" or "name of work," if necessary. You will probably find many more articles than you need. That's okay--it just gives you lots of choices.

Many of the works we are reading in this class will have been written about in books as well; to find books on your subject, go to the LAHC Library page and click on the "Find Books" link. (There's also a link to click if you're off-campus.)

Please feel free to contact me or the librarians if you need help navigating the databases or catalog.

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.

--The mural on this page is called "Rural Highway." It's the mural painted for the Middleport, N.Y. Post Office by Marianne Appel in 1941. More information about this mural can be found at Western New York Heritage Press.

--During the Depression in the 1930s and early 1940s, the U.S. government commissioned a number of murals for post offices across the United States. Many of these were quite amazing. To read more about them, CLICK HERE.