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Hope Library Guides

English 248 - Intro to Literature: Getting Started

This guide was developed for Natalie Dykstra's Intro to Lit class, but feel free to use it if you're in a different one.

Why Reference Sources?

As you are starting to explore a new research topic, reference sources are a good way to gain background information on your topic.  High quality, academic, multivolume sets, will often give you the beginnings of scholarly research on a subject by providing a short bibliography of important works on the subject.

Even with advanced subject knowledge of an area, you will run across unfamiliar people, places and events.  Library reference sources will allow you to quickly fill in those gaps and improve your contextual knowledge with more reliability than a Wikipedia article.

Electronic Reference Tools

Van Wylen Library provides acces to several excellent reference databases. For quick, fundamental information on almost any topic, resources like those listed below are frequently the best place to begin researching a topic that is new to you. Best of all, these databases combine the speed and ease of a public reosurce like Wikipedia without sacrificing reliability or scholarly character.

Finding a Short Story

Finding Reference Books

Our library contains a variety of reference books that can give you an overview of your topic and help you get a sense of where to look next in your research.  They can also be a reference point for brief definitions and background questions as you do your research

Van Wylen's reference section is on the main library floor. It's organized just like the rest of our collection, so reference books dealing with the same or similar subjects (like British history) are often found in the same vicinity. A fun way to find reference tools to use in your projects is just to come in and browse the shelves! 

You can, however, also use HopeCAT's advanced search feature to locate reference books on a particular topic. In the search box, type in a keyword or two that VERY generally describes your topic (think just the name of your country or major event). In the "Location" and "Material Type" menus, you can select "Van Wylen Reference" and "Print Book," respectively. This will add these limiters to whatever search terms you are using in the fields on top.

The results will be reference titles in the first floor collection. You can find eBooks by leaving "Material Type" unselected, or by selecting "eBook."

Reference Books of Interest to Lit Students

A prolix moniker, to be sure. But: did you know that we have many more reference books devoted to spoecific genres, specific literatures, and specific authors? Here are a few examples you might find interesting.

Browsing the Library Shelves

Sure, you can find books in HopeCAT. Yes, we have countless scholarly articles at your disposal in our numerous databases. But have you ever thought about the way our library is organized?

Our books and bound journals are shelved together according to subject, which means books nearest one another usually deal with the same (or at least similar) topics. sometimes, the best way to find the perfect book is to go to the right library location and just browse the shelves!

Van Wylen -like many academic libraries in the U.S. - organizes its books according to the Library of Congress system (LOC). Our call numbers begin with 2 letters, which are followed by numbers. This combination is actually the specific subject code.

In a literature class, you will likely be most interested in books that contain primary literary texts (novels, plays, poems, essays, stories, etc.), books about primary literary texts, and books about the authors of primary texts

LC call numbers beginning with "P" are devoted to language and literature. You can find these books on the 2nd Floor and in the basement: