English 208:
Writing About Literature

The Palm Herons

Writing About Literature

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

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.

More detailed directions: The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University has several articles that will help you with your papers.

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:


For 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.)

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.

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DO NOT cite Wikipedia in academic essays.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.