Skip to Main Content

ENGL 235: American Literature & Culture: Long Nineteenth Century

Correspondence Assignment

Over the course of the semester, you have participated in the regular practice of written correspondence with your peers. In this assignment, you will be asked to reflect on this experience and present a critically informed analysis of the activity. This guide will help you locate scholarly secondary sources using relevant subject databases and Collins Library Primo Search.

Recommended Subject Databases

There are several databases from which to choose when you are seeking scholarly work. For this assignment, most of you will want to start your search with the MLA International Bibliography (literature and linguistics) or America: History & Life (U.S. and Canadian history).  Additional databases can be found on the library's subject guide for English.

For this assignment, you'll want to limit your results to just articles or books. Click on the "check for full text" link to see if Collins Library has the journal or you need to order it through interlibrary loan.

Database Search Tips

Always use the advanced search interface and some combination of the following techniques to increase the effectiveness of your searches:

Search Technique   What It Does
quotation marks Searches for exact phrase
Truncation (usually an *) Searches for all forms of a word
Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) Lets you broaden or narrow your search
Database thesaurus or index             Allows you to pinpoint the exact indexing terms the database uses


Here's an example in action:‚Äč
AH&L Search example

Featured Books

Scholarly books can also be excellent sources for establishing historical and cultural background or placing a topic in context with related issues. A sampling of potentially relevant books is listed below.

Search Primo

Search Collins+Summit+Articles

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Books in Primo are assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings. In many ways, subject headings are a form of tagging, in that they represent the content of the material and provide ways for you to efficiently locate more materials that are conceptually related.

When you find an item that seems relevant, look at its subject terms to find similar items. To do this, check the "Item Details" and simply click on one of the subject headings listed in the record for the book; the next screen will list all the books that share this subject term.

Here are several examples of the various ways you can use LCSH to help pinpoint what you need:

American letters -- History and criticism

Letter writing -- History -- 19th century

Letter writing -- United States -- History -- 19th century

Reading a Scholarly Article

During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too): What does the author want to find out? What is the research question the author is asking?
  • Evidence: What are the primary sources the author uses?
  • Scholarly conversation: What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses?
  • Conclusion (typically the last paragraph): How does the author tie the evidence together to answer the research question? What is the significance of this research?

Once you've selected the article, you can actively read for content, argument, analysis and evaluation. 

Tip: Read the article more than once! It may help to print out a copy so that you can make notes.