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Research Analysis

Your research essay requires the use of secondary sources.

  • You must find three (3) scholarly sources related to your primary text/author. These should be from academic journals or scholarly books.
  • For each source you will
    • Provide a 200-word overview, in your own words, of the scholarly argument.
    • Write a 300-word analysis of your primary text focusing on how that text reflects the scholarly argument.
  • Sources can be found using MRU Library resources or Google Scholar.
  • Follow MLA guidelines and citation rules.
  • Share any questions about the sources you find with the instructor or librarian.

See your assignment handout for full details.

During today's class we will:

  • Review assignment requirements
  • Discuss relevant types of sources
  • Introduce best resources for literary research
  • Have time for you to find sources
    • Use this opportunity to look for research on your topic
    • Consult with the librarian and course instructor as needed
  • Revisit the research supports available

Goal: By the end of this session you will learn about searching for scholarly sources on literary topics, practice using these resource to start your own research, and know where to get research support later.

Choosing and evaluating sources

Primary Sources

The main work(s) being studied and analyzed. In literary research, this is usually a novel, poem, story, play, essay, or a collection of these works.

Secondary Sources

Research and scholarship about the primary source, or about the author/creator of the primary source, or about the literary period when the primary source was created.

Articles and Books - your best option

  • includes in-depth analysis, criticism, and commentary
  • original research appears in peer reviewed journal articles, or scholarly books or individual book chapters
  • may explore a literary work or set of works, or an author's works as a whole, or a particular literary theme

Reference Works

  • usually introductory information and summary of a literary work, or of an author, theme, character, etc.
  • sometimes called background sources, appearing in encyclopedias, handbooks, or companion guides
  • may include some commentary, but is not considered comprehensive literary analysis or criticism

Book Reviews

  • generally written within two years of the time the work was published
  • often appear in journals, trade publications, and popular magazines
  • is not comprehensive literary analysis or criticism


Scholarly (peer-reviewed, academic)

Non-scholarly (popular)


Subject matter expert; often with advanced education (e.g., PhD) or working at a university

Journalists, professional, or creative writers; may be crowd generated content


Reviewed by an editorial board or other subject matter experts (peers)

Reviewed by an editor (sometimes)

 Audience &   language

Researchers, scholars, students; language is academic or technical

General public; uses everyday, easy to understand language


Reports original research; builds on previous knowledge

News, and practical information, creative works

 Cites sources?

Always cites other research

Occasionally, but not required


How do you know if you have a credible, reliable, relevant source? Consider the following:

  1. Is the author qualified to write about the topic?
  2. Does the resource incorporate quality reports, research or other trustworthy information?
  3. Is the language used objective, or emotional?
  4. Is the information opinion-based, or can you identify some bias?
  5. Does the resource address your research topic or problem?
  6. Who is the intended audience?
  7. Is the information recent, or does it speak to the time period of your research?

Your resource doesn't necessarily have to meet all of these criteria.

The following video has more information about ways to understand and evaluate the credibility of sources.

Search tips and possible resources

Power up your searching with these tips.

Phrase searches: Put quotation marks around ideas made of multiple words (very useful for titles)

  • "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"
  • "restoration period"

Truncation: Use an asterisk * to find different endings to your keywords

  • religio* = religion, religions, religious
  • critic* = criticism, critical, critics

Synonyms: Use different keywords to describe the same/similar ideas to find results using any any of those terms. Note that synonyms are most effective in brackets with the word OR between them.

  • (church OR religion OR spiritual*)
  • (criticism OR analysis OR commentary)

You can combine these techniques in a single search: 

Background sources often provide an introduction to a topic, as well as list of additional readings.The following are example of the types of titles that might prove useful. You'll find many more like this using LibrarySearch. Also visit the Background Sources tab of for more options.


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Richard Hayman
Phone: 403.440.8518
Office: EL4441K

Literature podcasts

Citation Resources from Student Learning Services

  • Cite Sources: Learn the correct way to cite sources by using these guides, tutorials, and videos.
  • Referencing Webinars: APA & MLA. Referencing Webinars are 75 minutes long.  Registration is required.
  • Online Appointments: Personalized online 30-minute appointments with a Learning Strategist.

Evaluate this session

Please take a few minutes to complete the online Student Evaluation of Instruction for this class.