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ENGL 247: Superhero Comics and Culture

Finding Secondary Sources

For your research assignment in this class, you'll need to identify, read, analyze, and respond to several scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles or book chapters that demonstrate a critical approach to your primary text or topic.

Not sure where to start?  Here are three broad strategies that you can try:

  • Browse or search key journals for scholarship related to comics, graphic literature, your primary text or superhero fandom/culture
  • Search a subject database, such as the MLA International Bibliography or Literature Criticism Online
  • Search Primo for print and ebooks related to your text and topic

Featured Journals

These journals contain articles related to many aspects of popular culture and comics, including theory, history, and criticism.

Recommended Databases

Like most other disciplines, English has several subject-specific databases. The MLA International Bibliography and Gale Literature Criticism are two examples. Subject databases index scholarly materials (books, chapters in books, scholarly articles, dissertations) that will be of interest to researchers within that discipline. MLAIB is the key database for literature, linguistics, and related areas.


Depending on your primary text and your angle, you may wish to search these additional databases. 

Featured Books

A sampling of potentially relevant books is listed below.

Search Primo

Search Collins+Summit+Articles

Strategies for Finding Books

1. Start with specific titles suggested in subject encyclopedia entries.

2. Identify the Library of Congress Subject Headings for that book to identify more books on the topic.

3. If required for your assignment, make sure that the book is scholarly. 

4. To find eBooks, use the filters on the right side menu to limit your results to eBooks (under "Resource Type")

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Collins Library, like most academic libraries in the United States, uses Library of Congress Subject Headings to describe the content of books. 

You only need to be an observant user of Primo -- not an expert in the use of subject headings -- to make them work for you. Availing yourself of frequently used subject headings will help you locate secondary sources easily. Use subject headings to search for resources related to a specific author or work, in addition to literary themes or movements, genres, and/or critical approaches.

Here are several examples, centered on superheroes and comics, of the various ways you can use LCSH to help pinpoint what you need:

Comic books, strips, etc.

Comic books, strips, etc. -- History and Criticism

Comic books, strips, etc. -- United States

Comic books, strips, etc. -- Moral and ethical aspects

Comic books, strips, etc. -- Political aspects

Comic books, strips, etc. -- Social aspects


Superheroes in literature


Subject heading searches may also be used to find critical work on individual authors, characters, or publishers: 

Moore, Alan, 1953- -- Criticism and interpretation

Wonder Woman (Fictitious character)

Marvel Comics Group

Reading Criticism

Texts that interpret literary works are usually persuasive texts. Literary critics may conduct a close reading of a work, critique a literary work from the stance of a particular literary theory, or debate the soundness of other critics' interpretations. 

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

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too):  What is the writer’s central claim? What research question is the author asking?
  • Evidence:  What kind of evidence does the writer use to support their claim? Are there quotations from the text(s)? From other critics/scholars? From theorists?
  • Scholarly conversation:  What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses? Does the author acknowledge counter-arguments? How does their interpretation connect to your own close reading of the text?
  • 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.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option for getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Tipasa is linked to your library account so you'll need to log in to use it.

Once you are logged in, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived.