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ENGL 220: Introduction to Writing about Literature (all sections)

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What is research in literature?

Welcome to the English 220 research guide. This guide is designed to introduce you to the research process in the field of English literature, and to help you find and evaluate sources to use for course papers and projects.

Before you start, it's important to understand what we mean by the term "research." As a college-level researcher, your task is not to find or "look up" the answer to a question. Rather, we're asking you to join the scholarly conversation on a topic. The video below from the Clemson University Libraries helps to explain what that means.


There is never just one "correct" interpretation of a work of literature. Instead, there are various ways to approach a given text. When you are asked to write a research paper in an English literature class, you are being asked to add your own voice to the existing conversation, both by exploring a given theme in the text itself and by exploring what scholars in the field have already said. You will find this "scholarly conversation" happening in peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and book chapters.