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*Spanish: Dr. McNichols - SPA-3308

Literary Research Tips

The first question to ask yourself:

What am I interested in? What strikes me? What do I want to know? Why does this matter? (But don't stop at this question and say it doesn't!! Force yourself to take the affirmative and say, "this matters because of ...")

Some ideas or starting points for literary research:

  • Author--What other works did the author write? Who are the authors contemporaries?
  • Character--Are they realistic, symbolic, historically-based?
  • A study of the social, political, or economic context in which a work was written
  • Literary Period--Are there works in a particular time period you find interesting? Something that defines that time period?
  • Theme/Topic--sexuality, gender, religion, etc.
  • Kind of Literature--Poetry, short story, narrative, etc.
  • Historical Period out of which a text emerges--How might that shape the work? What might be taking place in a culture that would directly impact an author or the type of work they write?
  • Audience of a work--Who was the work's main audience? How was it received at the time it was written?
  • Reality & Fiction, Real vs. unreal
  • Urban Spaces and "city"
  • Environment and eco-criticism
  • Archetypes
  • Nationalism and identity questions
  • Authority & power

Using the Tools Effectively: Tips & Tricks for Literary Research

When using the library’s databases, take advantage of the built-in tools available to help you narrow or expand your search. Use database supplied subject terms, date limiters, and other options as a way to eliminate items that will not be useful to you.

Try alternative terms for searching. Sometimes you have to be creative about how you frame a search. It’s also helpful to keep a log of the search terms you have used and how effective or ineffective they were.

Follow the citation trail and use the bibliographies and works cited of articles you find to guide you to other resources related to your topic. It also gives you an indication of the other strands in the scholarly conversation.

Remember to cite where you found information, and if you plan ahead, request items through Interlibrary Loan if the Library does not own them.

Finally, if you are stuck and can’t find information ask a librarian or talk to your professor!

MLA Database

The MLA database is the premiere database for research in the humanities. It is a detailed bibliography of journal articles, books and dissertations. Produced by the Modern Language Association, the electronic version of the bibliography dates back to the 1920s and contains over 1.8 million citations from more than 4,400 journals & series and 1,000 book publishers.

It has built in tools that can help you find the most relevant articles or book chapters for your research.

First, there are many helpful ways to limit your search so your results are more relevant.

You can limit your results by:

    • publication type
    • language
    • publication date range
    • Exclude dissertations
    • Scholarly, Peer Reviewed Journals

You can also use the subject terms supplied to assist you in thinking of other ways to search. Many of them are hyperlinked so you can click on them to execute a new search.


When you look at a record it will tell which subject terms are being used, and if the full text is available you will see a PDF icon for the text just beneath the citation.






Pre-Columbian Literature

Writing prior to 1492

Indigenous cultures - Examples would be literature of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca cultures.

Mostly oral tradition.

Literary Examples:

  • “Carta a Satangel”
  • “Voces amerindas”

Colonial Period

This period extends from around 1492 to approximately the early 1700s

Conquest or Discovery Literature

  • Renaissance -- 1492-1600

    Example: Bartolom é de las Casas, “La Rebeli ón de Enriquillo”

  • Baroque -- 1600-1750

    17th Century was the height of this period
    Example: Sor Juana, “Respuesta” “Redonillas I” “Sonetos”

Neoclassical Literature

1750's - 1830's

Example: Andrés Bello, “Autonomia” & “Búsqueda…”


1832 - 1888


  • Gómez de Avellaneda “Al partir” and “Romance”
  • Esteban Echeverría, “El matadero”


1882 - 1910


  • José Martí “Sobre mi hombro” & “Nuestra América”
  • Rubén Dario, “Era un aire suave” & “A Roosevelt” & “Elvelo de la reina Mab”

20th Century



  • Alfonsina Storni, “Tú me quieres blanca”
  • Jorge Luis Borges "Borges y yo"
  • Pablo Neruda "Poema 20" & "Oda a los calcetines"




  • Delmira Agustini “El intruso” & “Explosión”




  • Octavio Paz, "Dos cuerpos" & Himno entre ruinas"
  • Emilio Carballido, El censo
  • Rosario Castellanos "Valium 10" & "Costumbres mexicans"




  • Carlos Monsiváis, "Las migraciones culturales"
  • Rosario Ferré, “La muñeca menor”
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