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ENGL-312TH Thinking with Shakespeare

The scholarly conversation and literature reviews

Eventually you'll want to situate your topic in the context of the scholarly conversation surrounding that topic: what other literary scholars have had to say about it so far, what if any controversies surround it, and what remains to be researched about or is missing from the conversation? This is called doing a literature review (or review of the literature) and involves finding scholarly books and articles that relate to your topic. It can help you to position your contribution to the conversation, establishing where your ideas help to further the discussion.

This page contains tools and tips for finding literary criticism relevant to your research topic.


Literary companions are guidebooks to an author and their works. They often include a sampling of literary criticism on the the author's works. There are many companions to Shakespeare in general and these may be too broad to be useful for a literature review on a focused topic, but there are also some companions that are narrower in scope.  For example, some companions cover topics like Shakespeare and race, feminism, film, performance, popular culture, queer theory, religion, the arts, etc.

To find out if there's a companion to Shakespeare for a topic you're researching, do a Discover Title search on the term "companion" along with Shakespeare and a term describing your topic. For example:

Discover search on the terms companion, shakespeare, and queer theory

Databases for finding scholarly articles and books

You can search for scholarly articles and books on your topic in the library's databases. For a list of databases that are particularly useful for literary research, visit:

One additional, Shakespeare-specific database to add:

Strategies for following the scholarly conversation

One way of getting a handle on the scholarly conversation surrounding a topic is to find a good, recent article or book that's relevant to your research and then check to see which articles and books it cites in its bibliography.  Another strategy for discovering additional relevant information - and seeing where the scholarly conversation on your topic has gone since an article or book you found was published - is to find out if any other scholars have cited it. What follows are some tips on tracking down citations in either direction.

Tracking citations in an article or book

Browse through an article's, book's (or book chapter's) references or works cited list. If you see any references that look like they are also relevant to your research topic, search for them in Discover.

Finding other works that cite an article or book

Search for your article or book in Google Scholar. For some results, Google Scholar will show a Cited By link. When clicked on, it will take you to a list of other articles and/or books that cite the one you just searched.

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