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ENGL 381: Major Authors: John Milton

Finding Criticism

For your final research assignment in this class, you'll need to meaningfully engage at least 3 scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles or book chapters that demonstrate a critical approach to Paradise Lost.

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

  • Browse key journals for scholarship related to Milton and his works
  • Search a subject database, such as the MLA International Bibliography or Literature Criticism Online
  • Search Primo for print and ebooks related to your topic
  • Consult book reviews to identify significant scholarly works on your topic

Featured Journals

If you're not sure yet what you're interested in, or you're interested in so many different aspects of Milton's work that you can't decide where to focus, you might want to just browse through scholarly journals to see what catches your eye. A wealth of Miltonian scholarship can be found in scholarly journals that publish literary and historical criticism about Milton's works. Here are some major journals that contain articles and other critical works about Milton, his works, and his contemporaries.

Search a Subject Database

Like most other disciplines, English has several subject-specific databases. The MLA International Bibliography and Literature Criticism Online 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.

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.


The databases listed below are examples of multidisciplinary finding aids that also cover literature.

Books on Milton

Search Primo

Search Collins+Summit+Articles

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

​Collins Library uses Library of Congress Subject Headings to describe the content of books. If you are researching an author about whom much has been written, you can use Library of Congress Subject subheadings to help pinpoint your search.

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

Books Reviews

By consulting book reviews of the scholarly works you are reading, you can gain a better understanding of the place of a particular work within the field. Here are a few tips for locating book reviews:

  • Check to see when your book was published. If it was published more than twenty years ago, and you aren't finding reviews online, you may need to look beyond online sources and check print indexes.
  • If you're having trouble finding a review, check with a librarian for help and to cover all your bases, but remember that some books are never reviewed. If that's the case, think about what that might mean about the book's scholarly importance.
  • In many databases, you can specifically limit your search results to just reviews.

Start with the resources below and branch out as needed. Search by the title of the book, or by the author of the review and a keyword from the title. 

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 this 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.