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ENC 1102 (Toole): Types of Articles

A guide for Prof. Toole's ENC 1102 classes working on literary research.

Reference Articles

Reference articles give you an overview of a story. They usually address the plot, themes, symbols, characters, etc.

You will typically find these in:

  • Artemis Literary Sources (Topic and Work Overviews section)
  • Literary Reference Center Plus (limit to Plot Summaries)


Biographical or Historical Context Articles

Biographical articles describe the life of the author. You can find these in

  • Artemis Literary Sources (Biographies)
  • Literary Reference Center Plus (limit to Biographies)

Of particular interest are articles in Dictionary of Literary Biography. This is a multivolume series (think hundreds of book) usually featuring a particular time-period (with individual volumes having names such as American Short Story Writers, 1910-1945), and focusing on what influenced a particular writer and how he or she influenced other writers. You can limit to Dictionary of Literary Biography under Publication Title on your results screen.

Historical context articles focus on the time period. A particular helpful series for historical context is Literature and Its Times, available through the Virtual Reference Library. The focus of those articles is a particular piece of literature and its time. Most of the articles are about novels, not short stories, so you may not find one on your particular story, but you might find one on your author, e.g. for Hemingway there are articles about A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea. Even though you are working on one of Hemingway's stories, not his novels, the historical context for Hemingway is the same, so the articles may still be useful.

Literary Analysis or Literary Critique Articles

Literary critiques or analysis articles are written by literary scholars (often professors, but generally people who have at least a master's degree in literature and often a PhD). They are published in literary journals, which are usually specialized. Here are some examples:

  • The Hemingway Review
  • Studies in Short Fiction

Literary journals are peer-reviewed (sometimes called academic, scholarly, or refereed in the databases). This means that they are reviewed by other experts in the field. This is a rigorous process, and many articles are rejected.

You will often see these articles referred to as literary criticism or literature criticism. These terms often have negative associations for students, so it may be more useful to think of them as literary analysis. Scholars analyze the kinds of elements we discussed in the pre-research and research question tabs, such as symbols, themes, and historical influences. They also analyze writing style, apply literary theories, and compare one work to another.