Doing Literary Research
The Literature Faculty have created a Literature Resource Guide web page to help Literature Majors with their research.This page will help you initiate literary research and find literary resources. This guide is not intended to be comprehensive, but instead as an introduction to the process.
If you are looking for help with your writing, please visit the Center for Reading and Writing at the Center for Academic Success.
The goal of this exercise is to help students identify and work with the elements required to begin writing a literary analysis. It is also intended to emphasize the aspects of choice and variety involved in writing about literature by asking each student to identify and provide evidence for different responses to the same work of literature.
Any worthwhile work of fiction tells a good story. But some books do more than that, and those are the books we tend to study formally. At the plot level, for instance, Great Expectations is about a young man who falls in love, learns to despise his “common” self, receives an enormous financial gift that removes him from his home – and then loses all. It is, overall, a compelling story – but the story is not the only reason the book endures. The novel also invites – even compels – the reader to think about many important issues including family relations, class and power relations, ambition, shame, guilt, and the English criminal justice system of Dickens’ day. Your paper (about Great Expectations or any other book) will be far more interesting (to yourself and to your professor) if you engage those issues, rather than recounting the plot (with which we are both familiar).
Doing the steps involved in this exercise should help you to identify those important themes and issues, to develop a stand on one (or more) of them, and to accumulate evidence that will help to persuade others that you are correct in the position you have taken. The exercise involves 4 basic steps.
- Identify 3 themes in the work you have been asked to examine. List them.
For instance, you might say that class is an important theme in Great Expectations.
(Think of Estella’s treatment of Pip, and his reaction to it.)
- For 2 of these themes, write 2 theses each (for a total of 4 theses).
Appearing a short twelve years after “The Communist Manifesto,” Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’ condemnation of the class system in Great Britain.
Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations highlights the fact that the lack of an effective public education system in nineteenth-century Great Britain helped to preserve a tremendous gap between the upper and lower classes.
Notice how the thesis does more than note the fact that the theme exists. It narrows the theme down to a more specific statement, and takes a debatable position on it.
- Compile evidence for 2 of these theses. Include the following:
3 other elements of plot, characterization, setting, tone, imagery, etc.
You should have a total of 6 items per thesis, and 12 items overall.
For instance, for the second thesis about class, you could cite Pip’s attempts to teach Joe, and Pip’s own early “learning” experiences with Wopsle’s great-aunt.
- Write the opening paragraph for a paper that will prove one of the two theses you have worked on above.
Tips & checklist
Listed below are a few basic points that you should consider before turning in your essay. This list does not cover everything required for a good literary analysis paper – but if you don’t do these things, it’s a pretty safe bet that your paper (and your grade) will, like King Lear and Creon, suffer some sad consequences. Avoid tragedy now! Take these crucial steps.
- How will you begin that opening paragraph? Remember that there are many options available to you. Among the most popular: starting with a pertinent, thought-provoking quotation from the text; stating your thesis; asking a question that the body of your paper will answer.
- Be sure to give your paper a title. If you can’t encapsulate your main idea in a title, then you may have a problem. So providing a title can be a good way for you to check with yourself that the paper really does focus on a single coherent idea.
- Do you have a thesis? Is it a truism (something so obvious it needn’t be said)? Can it pass the dreaded “so what?” test?
- Identify the author and title of the work you are discussing within the first few lines of the essay? (It’s often best to do this in the first sentence or two.)
- Provide sufficient background/ context about the work – but don’t go overboard. A 3-4 sentence synopsis of the plot can be very helpful, but you needn’t devote paragraphs to re-telling it.
- Include quotations from the text as evidence for your points. Make sure those quotations are appropriately introduced and integrated into your paper, and provide page numbers for them.
Example 1 (Yes): Inspired by Estella to be ashamed of his upbringing, Pip thinks, “I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too” (62).
Example 2 (No): Estella makes Pip feel ashamed of his upbringing. “I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too” (62).
NOTE: The chapter or page number where the quote appears should not get top billing in your sentence. The context and ideas to which it is linked are far more important.
- Have you provided adequate transitions between paragraphs, or will your reader get whiplash, being forced to jump from one topic to the next without connections?
- Be sure to avoid those alluring websites that promise to do all your thinking (and maybe even some of your writing) for you.
- Remember – there is no single “right” way to write a paper about any literary text. Any book worth a second read (and you’ll want to do a second read before writing!) is sure to generate a wide range of responses. Different readers will notice different themes, and even people who do notice the same themes may draw very different conclusions about them. That’s fine – even good – because it’s what makes the book (and the papers) interesting. But you do need to make the crucial move from plot to theme to thesis, and to include evidence that demonstrates the consummate correctness of your analysis.
From Professor Monika Giacoppe
ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGIES FOR WRITING BETTER PARAGRAPHS
A well-organized paragraph guides the reader from beginning to end. It follows the lead of its topic sentence and turns from that lead only after giving a clear signal. To write a well-organized paragraph, therefore, forecast your main point and signal your turns . Forecast your paragraph’s main idea with a topic sentence that points to the main idea the paragraph will pursue.
Consider the following. The paragraph leads the reader toward its conclusion:
Self-interest is frowned upon throughout Chandler’s story . After the murder of the stranger, the barman remarks that the killing is bad for business. The police arrive to investigate, empty the dead man’s wallet and inform the witnesses, “we didn’t touch him, see?” Later, Marlowe encounters more corruption and self-interest as he volunteers to help Lola reclaim a stolen necklace the stranger had been using to blackmail her. In an act opposed to self-interest , Marlowe recovers the lost necklace. Rather than ask for a reward, Marlowe makes sure Lola will never know that her one true love had given her false pearls. Marlowe does not act for money, love, truth, oreven self-interest, but for order.
The paragraph begins and ends with references to “self-interest,” and the body of the paragraph gives examples of the concept in the story being discussed. The reader never loses the thread of the paragraph’s main idea.
WRITING PARAGRAPHS–IN BRIEF
TO DIRECT EACH PARAGRAPH
Forecast your main point with a lead sentence that tells the reader where you are headed. Signal each turn of you thought with an apt word or phrase.
TO ENSURE COHERENCE
Use a sequence of sentences with the same basic pattern ( list structure ).
Two characters stand out in this short story. The Captain stands out because of his wound. He is marked by the accident the ship has encountered. Billie the oilerstands out because he has been given a name. He is marked by this humanizing gesture . . . .
Link each new sentence to the sentence before it ( chain structure ).
In every work of fiction, there are characters who attract our notice . “The Open Boat” is no exception . Here, these characters are The Captain and Billie the Oiler.These two characters catch our attention for two different reasons. We are drawn to The Captain because of his wound and Billie the oiler because he alone has been given a name . . . .
TO EMPHASIZE THE MAIN POINT
Repeat key words or phrases, (or use related terms).
Poe’s detective Dupin explores human identity, while Chandler’s private eye Marlowe explores human society. Marlowe does not match wits with his opponent to restore order . In fact, he has no opponent , as such. There are two murders in “Red Wind”: a couple of two-bit hoods kill each other and are forgotten by the story’s end. How different Marlowe is from Dupin. Marlowe is a man of action who thrusts himself into the chaotic society about him and roughly, almost brutishly restoresorder . Dupin serenely sits in his Paris apartments and with the help of his colleague coolly recounts his exploits. For him, his intellect is enough to restore order . Marlowe’s world is filled with more chaos than even Dupin faces. Dupin understands individual human beings ; Marlowe understands society.
TO LINK EACH NEW PARAGRAPH TO THE ONE BEFORE
Start with a transitional word or phrase
. . . . Dupin is interested in the money and in the personal satisfaction the exercise of his mind brings.
However , the tale of Marie Roget underscores at least one parallel between these two detectives. . . .
Start by answering questions raised in the previous paragraph.
. . . Poe’s first detective story is filled with terrible violence . However, it is not as unsettling as some of his terror stories that contain far less violence. How can that be?
Poe can still allow for closure in this violent story . Regardless of his Gothic trappings, in his detective fiction, Poe sought order, and Dupin is the embodiment of that order.
Start by echoing a key word or recalling a key idea from the previous paragraph.
Ultimately, Marlowe’s goal is the reestablishment of an order that he can at least tolerate in the “mean streets” of his Los Angeles.
Although informed by Poe and Chandler, Auster’s City of Glass never allows for achievable order. This Postmodern anti-detective novel argues for a world incapable of sustaining order.
Some ideas & phrases borrowed from Writing: A College Handbook by Jams Heffernan, Norton, 1994.
USING TRANSITIONAL WORDS AND PHRASES
Within the paragraph, you may want to use TRANSITIONAL WORDS AND PHRASES to link ideas together.
TRANSITIONAL WORDS Showing Chronological Order:
- in the past
- later, earlier
TRANSITIONAL WORDS Showing Addition:
- in addition
- as well as, also
TRANSITIONAL WORDS Showing Cause and Effect:
- as a result
TRANSITIONAL WORDS Showing Numerical Order:
- first, second, third, etc.
- in the first place
- secondly, thirdly, etc.
- to begin with, next, finally
TRANSITIONAL WORDS Showing Conflict or Contrast:
- on the other hand
- in contrast
TRANSITIONAL WORDS Showing Comparison:
Look at the following, from an essay on Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory . See how the writer uses transition words to link the paragraphs:
The scene just described has its roots in an actual audition that Guthrie made with his group, The Almanac Singers. Rather than present something so mundane as what actually happened that day, Guthrie uses the tale to develop his legend as a loner, rebel, and anti-capitalist. This portrayal is in keeping with his democratic politics and allows him to indulge in a “realistic” everyman fantasy. Bound for Glory ‘s protagonist is a dialect-speaking common man whom Guthrie identifies with the underclass.
Guthrie does not merely extol the hero of the book as a unique individual, however . Rather than ending the book by depicting himself as a radio performer and recording artist about to write his autobiography for a major publisher, this Woody is presented as penniless. When asked if he has any money, he responds, “Mornin’ comes I’ll feel in my pockets and see.” Guthrie imagines himself as a man at odds with money and disdainful of fame and status. While the real Woody Guthrie often abandoned employment and responsibility, he was also very serious about pursuing fame and especially recognition for his songs. He fantasized about the wealth his songwriting would bring. Eventually , Guthrie’s dreams came true when “every singer in America recorded ‘This Land is Your Land.’” If, however , Bound for Glory presents Woody as unemployed and oppressed, we can say its author has “assert[ed] the right of autobiographers to present themselves in whatever form they may find appropriate and necessary.”
And although he may well have been regularly unemployed, Woody Guthrie did not come to this condition through oppression, exactly . . . .
The writer uses phrases to refer to events previously discussed ( “ This scene just described,” “does not merely” ), he also uses familiar transition words (“eventually,” “however,” “although” ) to link his ideas together.
Some ideas & phrases borrowed from Writing: A College Handbook by Jams Heffernan, Norton, 1994.
From: Dr. Shannon
WRITING INTENSIVE CLASS EXERCISE
BUILDING STRONGER PARAGRAPHS
Often, when composing an essay of literary analysis, a student can feel lost if he or she has no ideas for a paper. Sometimes, however, the opposite situation can be the bigger problem. Sometimes a student sits down to begin writing confident that her head full of ideas will see her through the paper. So, the student concludes, no outline is necessary. Lack of planning can lead to paragraphs over burdened by ideas and under supported with facts and supporting details. Consider the following paragraph, from an essay examining Walt Whitman’s reputation in nineteenth century England.
The thesis statement reads:
The story of Whitman’s acceptance by his British peers bears exploration.
The first body paragraph reads:
In some ways, the story of Whitman’s acceptance during his lifetime by the British Poet Laureate reads something like a Horatio Alger history of American letters. In the context of Whitman’s familiarity with popular forms, such as journalism and reform novels, it is perhaps not surprising that Bram Stoker was fond of Whitman and in fact paid the the poet “three visits between 1884 and 1887″ (Perry 29). An extreme example of Whitman’s popularity among a distinct British subculture who venerated him for his social difference rather than his poetic ability can be found in the aristocratic male homosexuals of Nineteenth century England. Interestingly enough, even Whitman’s connection with the homosexual British subculture seems to resonate with a wider British flirtation with democratic principles. Whitman the political representative of change supersedes Whitman the poet.
What questions does this paragraph answer for the reader of the essay? What questions is the reader left with?
While each sentence in this paragraph is about Whitman’s reputation in England, each sentence actually broaches a new idea. In one paragraph we sample a variety of tantalizing ideas: Horatio Alger and Walt Whitman? Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula , knew Walt Whitman? Sexual preference, is always an issue in Whitman’s poetry, but was there really a “ distinct British subculture [ . . . of ] aristocratic male homosexuals of Nineteenth century England ”? What are the “politics of change” in Whitman’s poetry?
Could you write an outline that can help this writer?
From: Dr. Shannon
FORMAT : Use the MLA format for writing research papers. Since we always refer to a text when writing about literature, we always give credit to the author. Always determine what format your audience expects and make every attempt to use that format.
QUOTING : Keep several general rules of thumb in mind regarding quoting:
Quote often. If you are making a literary argument, you need to refer to the text frequently to demonstrate that you have a valuable, compelling point. These quotes are your major evidence. If you do not tell us which lines are important, you cannot be sure that we will remember them. Avoid stand-alone quotes. You do not want sentences in your paper that are entirely made up of quoted material. You are assuming your audience will remember who said this and when. They may not. You are assuming that your audience will assign to these quotes the same significance you do. They may not. Consider the following example:
Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is a latter day knight who embodies all the best qualities of man in a corrupt world. “He must be . . . a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it.” Chandler imbues all of the knightly virtues into Marlowe.
Who is the speaker of this quote? Chandler? A critic? Marlowe? Another character in the novel? Is the quote an example of the idea just introduced or is it a refutation of it? Consider the following revision:
Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is a latter day knight who embodies all the best qualities of man in a corrupt world. To emphasize this point, Chandler says in his essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” “[The hero] must be . . . a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it.” Chandler transfers all of the knightly virtues onto Marlowe.
With this little phrase all of our questions are answered. We know who is responsible for the phrase and why it appears in this essay.
Explain the context of your quotes. If you quote 5 words from a text, give us at least 5 of your own words to explain why the quote appears in your paper. If you quote 20 word, use 20 of your words to explain your reading of the text. Do not just drop in long (or short) quoted passages with no context. Consider the following example:
Chandler’s hero is a man of honor. Chandler discusses this in his essay, “The Simple Art of Murder”:
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective . . . must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. . . . He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man, and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.
Here we see Chandler’s vision of the detective as honorable man.
Who are we kidding? The quote does nothing here but stretch out the paper. We need to trim the quote and introduce it with enough of our own language to insure that the text will become an integral part of our own argument. Look at this revision:
Although the detective genre is often thought of as base and even inherently decadent and corrupt, Chandler’s novels are ultimately about honor. Marlowe may live in a corrupt world, but he is not a corrupt man. In “The Simple Art of Murder,” Chandler describes his honorable hero with language that emphasizes both the corruption of the world and the incorruptibility of the man. “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid,” Chandler writes. Yes, the world of his books may be corrupt, but the hero is not. Chandler says of this hero, “He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. . . . ” Chandler’s hero stands in opposition to the decadent twentieth century world in which he finds himself.
In the revised passage, we have a paragraph of about equal length, but we use only a small portion of the quote. However, we have bracketed the quote with our commentary of it. In the first passage, we leave ourselves open to accusations of laziness and unoriginal thinking. In the revision, we have taken a few minutes to make sure that the reader will see in Chandler’s comments what we want them to see. End your discussion on your words, not theirs. It is your job to make your argument. Quoted passages will shore up your argument, but they will not be able to emphasize them like your own words. I ended the above paragraph on my own words. If I leave out that last comment, I weaken my observation:
Yes, the world of his books may be corrupt, but the hero is not. Chandler says of this hero, “He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. . . . “
If I had left off the last sentence, I would be counting on Chandler to make my argument for me. But Chandler was not writing about Chandler, he was writing about Marlowe. Since I have a different argument than Chandler did, I need a different conclusion:
Yes, the world of his books may be corrupt, but the hero is not. Chandler says of this hero, “He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. . . . ” Chandler’s hero stands in opposition to the decadent twentieth century world in which he finds himself.
Maybe my reader would get the idea anyway, but I do not want to take any chances, so I conclude my paragraph with MY commentary on the source material.
When writing about literature, especially when writing literary argument or literary analysis, we make several assumptions about our audience.
First, we assume that our audience is familiar with the text. If we write a paper about As I Lay Dying, we assume our audience has read the novel. Therefor, it is not necessary for us to summarize the novel for the audience. Of course, your
real, primary audience is your professor. Since this person assigned the novel, it is safe to assume he or she has read it. Moreover, if you are making an argument concerning a fuller understanding of a literary work, you must be talking to someone who knows the book. Otherwise, why would this person seek a fuller understanding?
However, we still quote the text. Why bother if the audience has read the work? Two reasons:
One, we assume the audience has read the work. We do not assume they have memorized it. Selective use of quoted passages reminds the reader of our paper of important events or comments made in the work. Also, since we are explaining OUR view of the work, it is possible that we considered important passages our readers simply glossed. It is our job to shed light on those passages which lead to our fuller understanding.
Two, we want to display our expertise. Frequent quoting shows the reader that we are familiar with the works we are discussing.
While we assume our audience knows the text we discuss, we do not assume that they came to the same conclusions about it that we did. In fact, it is likely that our readers never considered our position or that they did consider our position, only to dismiss it. It is likely we are dealing with an opposition audience whom we must convince to accept our views. Hence, our paper will make reference to and defeat counter arguments, or positions contrary to our own.
We should also assume that we are addressing an audience greater than simply our professor or our class. Hence, we refrain from referring to the classroom context of our reading unless such references strongly support our position. It is counter productive to include a phrase like “Our class has read three Faulkner novels so far . . . .” Or, “As we said in class . . . . ” Try to write as if you were addressing someone you had not met. Take a professional tone and avoid personal references unless they help you support your argument.
It is not wrong to refer to yourself in a literary analysis, but it is often counterproductive. Your audience assumes that the paper is your opinion of the work. You do not need to remind them of that with phrasing like “I think” or “In my opinion.” Use a more remote voice and generally discuss your topic as if it were absolutely true, and not just an opinion you formed. If your experience of the work is significant, though, go ahead and use it. There’s a difference between “It seems to me that Ironweed is a sad book, in my opinion.” and “I wept when Gerald died.” The first emphasizes the subjectivity of the writer’s opinion, the second emphasizes the power if the scene in question.
From: Dr. Shannon
SHANNON WRITING ABOUT LITERATURE USING MLA FORMAT
The first page of your paper should begin with the following heading:
Alfred E. Neuman
Begin your paper on the next line after your title. Your paper does not need a separate title page, or a plastic folder, etc. Do not underline or italicize or underline your title. Your entire paper, including your heading on page one and your Works Cited page should be double spaced . Use 10 or 12 font.
Second and all subsequent pages (including your Works Cited page) should feature a header, with your last name and page number in the upper right hand corner.
When quoting works within the body of your paper, use MLA parenthetical documentation style. Immediately after your quoted or paraphrased material appears, list author and page number (line numbers for poems) in parentheses:
Whitman describes Lincoln as a “powerful western fallen star”(Whitman line 7) in his poem. Barthelme has less respect for national leaders. In his novel The King , Barthelme has Winston Churchill call King Arthur an “anachronism” (Barthelme 80).
Notice that when I borrow even one word from a source, it is quoted and cited with a parenthetical reference.
Andrews, William C. “Mark Twain and James W. C. Pennington: Huckleberry
Finn’s Smallpox Lie.” Studies in American Fiction 9 (1981): 103-112. a journal article
Barthelme, Donald. The Dead Father . New York: Penguin Books. 1975. a book by one author
—. The King . New York: Penguin Books. 1990. two works by the same author
Dawe, James. Jane Austen Page. 15 Sept. 1998
<http://nyquist.ee.ualberta.ca/~dawe/austen.html> a web page
It’s a Wonderful Life . Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel
Barrymore, and Thomas Mitchell. RKO. 1946. a film
Whitman, Walt. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature . Eds. Nina Baym, et al. New York:
Norton, 1995. 1008- 1014. a work from an anthology
Your Works Cited page (or Work Cited if you only cite one source) lists only the works you actually CITE (either by quoting or paraphrasing). Different kinds of works are cited in different formats. Do not underline, quote, or boldface the words “Works Cited” on this page. List works alphabetically by author. For clarity’s sake, I have labeled each source by kind (“a film,” “a journal article ,” “a web page,” etc.) Of course, you should not do this.
From: Dr. Shannon
Citing Web Sites & Electronic Sources
Basic information in an electronic citation
Basic information in an electronic citation includes the author of the material being cited, the title of the “text” in question, the “medium” in which the material was located (CD-ROM or internet site, for example), the publishing information/location of the information, the date the material was published and (if an internet site), the date on which the information was accessed.
Since so many variables are involved with web sources, it is wise to download a copy of the material electronically. If the web page is discontinued, the student still retains a copy of the material from which she borrowed.
There are, of course, many kinds of websites to document. The web features online books, online journals and magazines, online newspapers, scholarly databases, professional sites and personal sites, and the list grows daily. Lets look at a few examples.
A personal or professional site
Ideally, we would begin with the author’s name, in reverse order for alphabetizing. However, even this kind of basic information is often not available. The following example of a professional site is treated like an anonymous source.
“Woody Guthrie Biography.” Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives . Woody Guthrie Foundation. 26 July, 2000.
< http://www.woodyguthrie.org/biography.htm >
The entry begins with the title of the article (in this case, a biography of Woody Guthrie) and is followed by the title of the page. Next, the entry lists the institution associated with the site. Again, ideally, one would follow this with the date the page was “published.” However, this information is frequently not given on web pages. Then follows the date the writer accessed the information. Finally the entry lists the URL.
When listing the URL, the writer should be careful not to break the address up; try to include the entire address in one line of text. If I must break the address and continue it on the next line, one should break at a slash (“/”) and not insert a hyphen. To insure accuracy in transcription, it might be a good idea to cut the address from the web and paste it directly into the paper.
Citing an online text also available in a traditional edition
Increasingly, literary texts are becoming available in on-line forms. Using these sources can be quite convenient, even if they are not quite as much fun when curling up in front of a warm fire. However, it is worth keeping in mind that traditional books are going to be more reliable, especially if they are published by a reputable publishing company and edited by a professional. Still, when citing online texts, there are documentation protocols one needs to follow:
James, Henry. Hawthorne . 1879. 1 Aug. 2000. <http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/hjj/nhhj1.html>
In this case, the web page gives no information regarding the source of the text. Had they done so, the entry would include that information after the title. The site does, however, list the date of original publication, so that information is included.
Citing an article from an on-line magazine
Bacon, Katie. “An African Voice.” Interview with Chinua Achebe Atlantic Unbound . 2 Aug. 2000. 4 Aug. 2000.
< http://www.theAtlantic.com/ unbound/interviews/ba2000-08-02.htm. >
As with a print magazine article, the entry cites author, title, magazine title, and publication information. Also included is the URL and two dates. The first is the date the article initially appeared. The second is the date the writer accessed the information.
Citing an article from an on-line scholarly journal
Helming, Steven. “Failure and the Sublime: Fredric Jameson’s Writing in the 80’s.” Postmodern Culture 10.3 (2000) 4 Aug. 2000
< http://www.iath.virginia.edu/pmc/ current.issue/10.3helming.html >
The citation documents author, title, journal title, volume and number, date of publication, and date of access. The citation concludes with the URL.
Citing an article found on an CD-ROM database
“A Hobo’s Unhappy Home: Letter from Okemah, Oklahoma. (Hometown of Legendary Folk Musician Woody Guthrie).” The
Economist 28 June, 1997. 91. InfoTrac . CD-ROM. Information Access. 7 Jan.1999.
The entry essentially cites the magazine as if it were a traditional publication and then append the information regarding how the writer found the article. First list the title of the database, then the medium (“CD-ROM”) and then the all important “access date.” Since this article is anonymous, it does not list the author’s name, but is alphabetized by title (under “H” for “Hobo’s”).
Citing a publication on CD-ROM
Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus . CD-ROM. New York: Voyager. 1993
The CD-ROM is a “permanent text,” like a book. This edition cannot be revised the way a web page can be, so the citation requires much less information than a web page does.
Citing an article from a non-periodical publication on CD-ROM
Chase, Gilbert. “Leadbelly.” Encyclopedia Americana 10th ed. CD-ROM. Groliers, 1999.
Again, CD-ROM’s are permanent documents, so do not include date of access. This particular CD-ROM, however, is made up of many articles by many writers. Fortunately, the CD-ROM gives author credits for each entry, as in the case of this biographical sketch of the great blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, also known as Leadbelly or Lead Belly.
Ideally, just before the name “Groliers,” the entry would include the city in which the CD-ROM was “published.” However, that information was not available. Citing electronic media means getting and citing all of the information available. Frequently, the researcher will not find all of the information her or she would like to.