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English and Literature

Types of Sources: Primary, Secondary & Tertiary

Tertiary Source

  • Reference resources (encyclopedias, handbooks and dictionaries) are tertiary sources, which summarize resources and lead the researcher to a primary or secondary source. As a general rule, researchers do not cite tertiary sources in their research, but instead use for informational purposes. 

Primary Source

  • A primary source is an original source that has not been previously published or interpreted by others. Primary sources differ by discipline. For example, a diary is a primary source for historians and a poem is a primary source for a literary researcher.

Secondary Source

  • A secondary source is one step removed from the primary original source and reexamines, interprets and forms conclusions about the information conveyed by the primary source. 

Learn more about different types of sources.

Select Literature & Language Print Reference Resources
Located on the main floor of Hewes Library.

  • Dictionary of concepts in literary criticism and theory REF PN 41. H36 1992
  • Dictionary of literary terms REF PN 44.5 S46
  • Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics REF PN 1021 N39 1993
  • Oxford companion to English literature REF PR 19 D73 1985
  • Encyclopedia of the novel REF PN 41 E487 1998
  • Encyclopedia of the essay REF PN 4500 E63 1997
  • Poetry Criticism REF PN 1010 P499
  • Encyclopedia of literary critics and criticism REF PN 75 E53 E53 1999
  • Literature and its times REF PN 50 L574 1997 (cultural, historical context) 
  • World literature and its times REF PN 50 M625 1999  (cultural, historical context)
  • Oxford companion to Irish literature REF PR 8706 O88 1996
  • Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism REF PN 761 N5

Online Reference Sources

How can background information, found in reference resources, help?

  • Provide general information - like a definition or fact
  • Explore context surrounding a topic - the big picture
  • To help focus a topic - explore the subdivisions and perspectives
  • Locate additional sources - in bibliographies 

Language and Literature Reference Sources

General Reference Sources (includes some language and literature resources)

Find Books Using Library Catalogs

Book resources, located through library catalogs, provide primary texts (plays, novels, poems) as well as literary history and criticism.

As a Monmouth College patron, you have access to three tiers of library catalogs. 

Hewes Library Catalog

  • Locate physical books, DVDs and media owned by Hewes Library; select Ebooks included
  • Materials may be print or digital and are immediately available on campus

Search for books, ebooks, dvds, and documents in Hewes Library


I-Share Catalog

  • Locate and borrow books owned in other Illinois academic libraries
  • To request an item first login to the library catalog. Learn more about requesting materials via I-Share.
  • Materials are delivered to Hewes Library in 3-5 days *NOTE: COVID-19 quarantines will cause an added 1 day delay.*


  • A larger, international library catalog, WorldCat, allows identification of materials beyond the Hewes Library and the I-Share Catalog. (Be sure to check these catalogs first.)
  • Materials identified in WorldCat may be requested using WorldShare.
  • Items may take 7-14 days to arrive. *NOTE: COVID-19 quarantines will cause an added 1 day delay.*

What is I-Share?

I-Share is a sharing alliance of approximately 90 Illinois libraries.

Monmouth College students, faculty, and staff may borrow materials from I-Share free of charge.

What can I borrow from I-Share?

Books, and some multi-media items (at the discretion of the lending library)

How do make an I-Share request? video tutorial

  • Sign into the library catalog using your Monmouth College email address and password.

primo sign in bar

primo login screen

  • Conduct a search in the Hewes Library catalog. If the item is not located, find the link to the ALL I-SHARE LIBRARIES SEARCH in the top menu.

select an I-Share search

  • Conduct a search (again)
  • When the item you want is located, click the item TITLE.
  • In the full record, find HOW TO GET IT and click the I-SHARE bar underneath. The bar will turn grey and process. Indicate a "Not needed after" date, if necessary.

ishare how to get it button

  • A request form will display. The PICK UP LOCATION and PICK UP INSTITUTION will default to Monmouth College, but can be changed to other locations. 


  • Click send ishare request button

Biographical Sources in Literary Disciplines

Additional Biographical Resources

Literary Theory

Dictionariesencyclopedias, and critical companions are useful to search or browse to discover literary and philosophical terminology. 

These resources provide a scholarly overview of theory, and will help identify critical thinkers and additional scholarship to explore.

Literary Theory

An overview of literary theories:

Wojciehowski, Dolora Chapelle. "Literary Theory.The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference.

Dictionaries of literary theory:  search or browse contents

Buchanan, Ian. A Dictionary of Critical Theory. Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference

Baldick, Chris. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press, 2015. Oxford Reference.

Birch, Dinah, editor. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford University Press, 2009. Oxford Reference.  

Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2016. Oxford Reference.

Klage, Mary. Key Terms in Literary Theory. Continuum, 1st ed., 2012. Credo Reference.

Ryan, Michael, editor. The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory. Wiley, 1st ed., 2011. Credo Reference.

Dictionary & Encyclopedia Collections

How Do I Borrow from Other Libraries?

Hewes Library offers two ways to borrow materials from other libraries:
I-Share and WorldShare

To Obtain Articles

  1. If you have located an article citation in a database, click the (red) Find This Item button to determine availability, print or full-text, at Monmouth College. 
    • Please note: articles are NOT provided via I-Share.
    • You can also search the Journal List (by journal title) for print and full-text availability.
  2. If the full-text is not available:
  3. The article will be emailed and is yours to keep. Be sure to save/download the file.

To Borrow Books

  1. Search the Hewes Library catalog, first, to see if the item is available at Monmouth College.
  2. Next, search the I-Share catalog for availability.
    • If located, request the book by logging into the catalog using your Monmouth College email address and password.
    • Items arrive from I-Share in approximately three days.
    • More information about using I-Share
  3. If the book is not available at Monmouth College nor any I-Share library:

To Borrow Films (DVD) and Music (CD)

  1. Search the Hewes Library catalog, first, to see if the item is available at Monmouth College.
  2. If the item is not available at Monmouth College, request the item using the WorldShare interlibrary loan book request form.

If you have questions about materials you have requested, contact Sarah Henderson.

Boolean Searching

Boolean operators (connector words) such as ANDOR, and NOT, create phrases based on rules of search logic.  

Operator Examples Results                                        

business AND ethics

Retrieves records that contain ALL of the search terms.

hotels OR motels

Retrieves records that contain ANY of the search terms, but does not necessarily include all of them.

java NOT coffee  

Excludes records containing the second search term.  

Truncation Searching

The “ * ” replaces any number of characters and will find all forms of a word root.

  • child* LOCATES child, children, childhood
  • therap* LOCATES therapy, therapies, therapist, therapists, therapeutic, therapeutically

Note: symbols used may differ based on the tool used.  Consult the help documentation.

Wildcard " # " replaces any extra characters that may appear in alternative spellings.

  • colo#r LOCATES color, colour

Wildcard " ? ” replaces one character

  • ne?t LOCATES neat, nest, or next, but will not find net

Phrase Searching

Phrase searching
increases the accuracy of the search by keeping two or more words together as a phrase. Use quotation marks to keep the phrase intact.

“social media”    "fairy tale"    "fake news"

Putting it All Together

A database search example using Boolean, truncation and phrase searching

Search Tip

Research Process Overview

The research process typically includes five broad steps. Most often you complete one step before moving onto the next. However, there may be times when you will need to return to a previous step or complete multiple steps simultaneously.

This guide will help you through the research process - from developing a topic to citing resources.  

Step 1. Develop a topic
Brainstorming | Find Background Information | Develop Research Questions | Identify Keywords | Refine a Topic

Step 2. Locate information
Find Books | Find Videos | Find Articles | Find Websites | Search Strategies

Step 3. Evaluate and analyze information and sources
Evaluate Sources | Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Types of Periodicals

Step 4. Use, organize and communicate information
Notetaking Paraphrasing

Step 5. Complies with legal, ethical and moral standards
Academic Honesty | Citation Styles | Works Cited Examples | Copyright

Contact Hewes Library



Recommended Books

Craft of Research
The Craft of Research

Call Number: Q180.55.M4 B66 2016

Basic College Research Skills
Basic College Research Skills by Bookman, Steven

Call Number: LB1047.3 .B72 2007

Film Reviews

Book Reviews

Sources of book reviews in Hewes Library databases.

See descriptions for more information. Please note: additional disciplinary databases also may have book reviews in scholarly and popular periodicals.


Anthologies (collections) of literature may be organized by author, time period, genre, theme, or even country of origin

Sample searches to locate literary anthologies in the library catalog:

  • literature AND anthology
  • gothic AND anthology
  • "american literature" AND collections
  • feminism AND literature AND collections
  • islam AND literature AND bibliography 
  • "african american" AND literature AND (anthology OR collections OR bibliography)
  • (ireland OR irish) AND literature AND (anthology OR collections)

Selection of anthologies in Hewes Library:

Library and Book Trade Almanac: lists award winning books in several categories annually  Reference Z 731 .A47 

Magill's Literary Annual:  reviews of the most important books published in a year  Reference Z 1219 .M33  (1954-2013)

Short Story Writers: biographical and critical information  Reference PN 3373 .S398 2008

Short Story Index: list of short stories that have appeared in collections, periodicals    Indexes / Main Level Z 5917 .S5 C6 (1950-1988)

Norton Anthology of African-American Literature  PS 508.N3 N67 1997

Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature:  literary history and bibliography of works; additional Cambridge literature histories can be found in the Hewes Library catalog by searching "cambridge literature history" in the TITLE field. Note the publication date, subject/topic heading, and table of contents to understand coverage of particular volumes.  PR 471.C36 2004

Themes, Motifs

Selection of critical texts and bibliographies of literary themes and motifs

Sample searches to locate thematic or comparative sources in the library catalog:

Theme Motifs

Selections of thematic titles in Hewes Library:

Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry:  organizes poetry in anthologies by first line, author and subject; in several editions  REF PN 1022 .G7 

Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading:  Defines literary themes, provides criticism, author lists, and source bibliographies.  REF Z 1003.2 .B64 2008

Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs (1988): available via I-Share

Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature  REF PR 19 .E53 2011

Dictionary of Literary Symbols  REF PN 56 .S9 F47 2007

Literary Criticism Collections

These resources INDEX literary criticism - the entries in these resources lead to critical texts in other sources.

The collections publish portions of critical analysis of authors and their works. Use the series index near each print collection to locate a specific author. Using the citations found in these volumes, you will be able to locate the article or book in the Hewes Library (or via interlibrary loan or I-Share) and obtain the original critical source.

These items are found in either REFERENCE or LITERARY CRITICISM collections on the main floor (as noted).  Contact a reference librarian for assistance in using these materials.

  • Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism, LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN681.5.C57 (latest volume 1988)
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism,  LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN771.5 C59 
  • Drama Criticism, LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN1601.D59 (latest volume 1991)
  • Encyclopedia of Literary Critics and Criticism,  REFERENCE PN 75. E53 E53 1999
  • Hispanic Literature Criticism,  REFERENCE PQ7081.A1.H573 1994
  • Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800,  LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN700.L56 (latest volume 2002)
  • Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism, LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN 761. N5 (latest volume 2002)
  • Poetry Criticism, LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN 1010. P499 (latest volume 1992)
  • Short Story Criticism,  LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION  PN3373.S386 (latest volume 2003)
  • Something About the Author,  LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION  PN451.S6 (latest volume 2012)
  • Twentieth-century Literary Criticism,  LITERARY CRITICISM COLLECTION PN771.G27 (latest volume 1994)

  • Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature  PR471.C36 2004 (Upper Level Books)

Additional Cambridge literature histories can be found in the Hewes Library catalog by searching "cambridge literature history" in the TITLE field. Note the publication date, subject/topic heading, and table of contents to understand coverage of particular volumes.

Literary Criticism Databases

Recommended databases for language and literature research

  • Read explanatory notes for each resource to evaluate the effectiveness for your topic.
  • EBSCO platform databases can be searched simultaneouslysee how.
  • The library catalog should also be searched for books containing literary analysis.