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Essays and Criticisms Research

(If you are working on a paper about Edgar Allan Poe or his works, please read this)

Due to the overwhelming requests by students doing essays and term papers, I thought I'd better set the record straight on how to do research la Usher. Please do not email me any more questions concerning your papers as there is no easy way of researching a paper.  You may think that using the Internet will make your job easier but "Net plagiarism" is on the rise and beware of professors/teachers using a service called Turnitin.com.  There are many literary criticisms on the net, but it's best to start out with the following points in mind:

1. Find out what your teacher wants.  If they want an original piece of work, then try to come up with your own theories and do some research to see if you can find any articles to back you up.  One alternative way is to see first what the critics have said about the story you are planning to write about and then formulate your own thesis afterwards and then use the quotes to fit your ideas.     

2. Most public libraries and schools provide access to Internet databases like Master file PREMIER (EBSCO) that allow you to search for full text articles.  Check your library to see what they offer.  These are paid subscriptions so you have to go through your library. 

Here are some free article search indexes on the web recommended by "Leif" Fred Longley, reference librarian extraordinaire and jazz aficionado.  Full text is not necessarily available but you will at least find the references.

  1. Google Scholar
  2. FindArticles
  3. IngentaConnect (search both Fax/Ariel content and Electronic content for maximum results)
  4. HighBeam Research

 I recommend the following free Poe-themed Internet resources:

  • Poe Decoder : a group of individuals submitting essays about Poe's works
  • Poe Webliography : a Rutgers professor's annotated review of Poe sites
  • Precisely Poe : a school teacher who offers research advice on Poe-related topics
  • The Folio Club : a site with four essays on Edgar's stories
  • Qrisse's Poe Pages : a very detailed biographical account of Poe's life and online works
  • Miscellaneous Essays : a small list from the Library I maintain with various works I've found

3. Learn what literary resources are available to you at your school, college, university, or public library. A company called Gale specializes in literary criticisms and publishes the following series:

Authors and Artists for Young Adults
Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography
Contemporary Authors
Discovering Authors
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism
Poetry Criticism
Something About the Author
Short Story Criticism
World Literature Criticism

These books usually have a master index (Gale Literary Index) you can search via your library. You can find articles on the specific stories you are researching.

Consult your reference librarian where to find them and for any possible others while doing your research.

4. For biographical research of your topic (i.e. facts about the author's life), you can consult different online encyclopedias and biographical databases but you should compare the information between them to get an accurate account.  There are also biographical books by reputable scholars (i.e. Quinn) that have researched Poe's life and works. A great biography of Poe is by Pulitzer prize winner Ken Silverman.  Highly recommended.   Rest assured that the House of Usher receives no compensation for this plug.  It's just a great book.   Here's an interview with Ken Silverman discussing Poe.  These biographical books will probably be at a college library. There are also primary sources of information like Poe's works or letters written by Poe to friends, family, and other individuals.  Many library offer access to biographical Internet databases.   Ask your librarian. 

5. Finally, don't forget that good research is based on what's already been done in the field by scholars and literary researchers.  Be wary of your sources.  Learn what the reputable sources are from your teacher and use them. 

Good luck on your papers,

Petey Forrest, Librarian & underground musician! lol
House of Usher


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