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ENGL 301: Critical Methods in the Study of Literature

Library research guide for English 301: Critical Methods in the Study of Literature

Topic Development Example 1

Topic Development

Topic Development

Primary Text:  Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno

Broad Topic:  Exploration of Race


  • Identify Broad Subject Areas to Research
  • Do preliminary research on broad topics and then drill down to more specific topics
  • Identify places to begin your research. 
    • Reference Sources, such as encyclopedias, are good for overviews of a topic
    • Books (use Worldcat) are excellent for broad topics i.e. US 19th Century - Attitues Towards Race & Slavery
    • Articles (use databases such as the MLA International Bibliography or America: History & Life for narrow aspects of a topic i.e. postcolonial criticism of Melville’s novela Benito Cereno  OR comparative study of Melville’s Benito Cereno and Delaney’s Blake: Or the Huts of America OR Antebellum attitudes towards slavery in two regions of the United States: New York and Virginia
    • Primary Sources – use databases such as America’s Historical Newspapers to search for articles about race and slavery in 19th century US newspapers
  • Brainstorm keywords for your topic: (Examples)
    •  race, racial, racism, slavery slaves, enslaved 
    • pre-civil war, antebellum, 1800-1864, 19th century
    • postcolonial, critical race theory, colonialism