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ENGL 214PD: Perception and Deception in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

What's a secondary source?

Secondary sources offer analysis of primary sources. In the field of literature, some examples might be a book or article that examines or interprets the work or works of an author, explores the history of a literary movement, or a book review. Something to consider when choosing which secondary sources to use is that some may come from popular sources and some from scholarly. 

Popular and scholarly secondary sources

Popular sources may be books or articles from newspapers and magazines that are intended for a general audience and that may or may not be written by experts on the topic covered. You'll find many book, movie, and arts reviews come from popular sources and, at times, these may be all the analysis you can find for the works of newer or less well-known writers, directors, or artists. However, in college-level papers and research projects, secondary analysis from scholarly sources is usually preferred. Scholarly books and journal articles are written by scholars (experts in their field) for other scholars, and the publishers that produce these books and journals use a process called peer review to determine which manuscripts they will publish.  Many of the library's databases provide tools for filtering your limiting your search results to peer-reviewed sources or specifically index only scholarly sources. See The Scholarly Conversation section of the English guide for more information about how to determine if an article or book is from a peer-reviewed publisher.

Reference Works

Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference resources help you to discover basic information—names, dates, definitions, summaries, etc. These are good places to start when beginning research on an unfamiliar subject, and when choosing or narrowing a paper topic.




The Middle Ages

The Renaissance

Find more reference works

There are a couple of ways to find more reference works in the library collection:

  • Do an Advanced search in the Five College Library Catalog on terms that describe your topic (e.g., history science) and the terms encyclopedia or dictionary or handbook or companion.Screen shot of catalog advanced search screen.
  • In the Five College Catalog, restrict your search to just Mount Holyoke, click into the Advanced search form, enter the terms for your topic (e.g., history science) and use the Location drop down menu to select MH Reference:MH Reference search on history science

Books and Articles



Interdisciplinary databases

Literature databases

MHC Accessibility Barriers Form