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English 199: Introduction to the Study of Literature

How to write about literature

Writing an English paper can be a challenge if you've never written about literature before or have never done so at the college level. Here are some sources that can help you make the adjustment.

Writing about literature

  • Literature Describes steps for planning and writing a paper about fiction.
  • Drama Tips and strategies for writing about drama.
  • Poetry Tips for writing poetry explications.

College level writing tips in general

  • College Writing Explains "how and why to move beyond the five-paragraph essays you learned to write in high school and start writing essays that are more analytical and more flexible."
  • Thesis Statements Describes what a thesis statement is, how it works in your writing, and how to craft or refine one.
  • Evidence How to gather evidence and use it in your writing to support your argument/thesis.

Note taking tips

  • Reading to Write - Suggests "reading, note-taking, and writing strategies for when you need to use reading assignments or sources as the springboard for writing a paper."

What about other disciplines?

Many of the above online handouts are from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Writing Center. If you're interested in viewing their tips for writing in other disciplines (Anthropology, History, Psychology, Sciences, etc.), visit their Tips & Tools web page and check out the list of handouts under the Writing for Specific Fields section. Every discipline does things a bit differently!

Writing reference works



Grammar and style

Formatting your paper in MLA Style

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style guidelines are most frequently used for formatting literature papers. Some resources for making sure that you've formatted your paper correctly:

For more information and tips about citing and setting up your paper's works cited list, see the Citing page of this guide.

Formatting your paper in Chicago style

The Chicago Manual of Style guidelines are also sometimes used in the humanities.  Chicago style consists of two documentation systems, notes-bibliography and author-date. Check with your instructor about which system they prefer.

Writing an Annotated Bibliography

A helpful technique that facilitates writing a research paper is to create an annotated bibliography as you collect sources. More than just a list of properly cited sources, an annotated bibliography includes a note for each source briefly reflecting on how it could be used to support your paper's argument. Doing this work up front can make it easier to integrate sources into your paper when you begin writing.

For further information about creating an annotated bibliography and samples, see:

For instructions on how to properly cite sources in MLA format, see this guide's Citing page.

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