How to do research in Literature

Library resources for researchers working on English, Comparative Literature, world literature, literary theory, and literary criticism in any language.


Topic-specific keywords will help improve your results in a general multidisciplinary database like Google, Google Scholar, HOLLIS, or Academic Search Premier

Add keywords like these to your search:

  • Subject terms - literature, criticism
  • genre terms - novel, fiction, poetry, drama, theater
  • time period terms - 19th, "to 1500"
  • Geographic terms - Asian, “United States”
  • Languages and language families - lusophone, slavic, Korean


The best tool for your project may be a specialized search engine, also known as a database. These databases are subject-specific or format-specific search tools:

MLA International Bibliography (via Harvard Key) is an international and multilingual database of citations and abstracts for scholarship in literature and related fields. It’s a good place to start for almost any topic, and an important complement to full-text collections like JSTOR.

JSTOR (via Harvard Key) is a full-text collection of well-regarded academic journals across a broad range of disciplines. Note that recent articles may not appear in JSTOR until several years after they are published.

Dig Deeper

Literary Research in Harvard Libraries offers search tips and database recommendations for different aspects of literary research, including literary theory and non-English literatures.


Odile Harter, the library liaison for English and Comparative Literature, is available to support researchers via email or in-person consultation.

Service Alert:
  • Some Harvard Library locations will be closed or have special hours for Commencement, Thursday, May 26. Please check the Library Hours page for specifics. Ask a Librarian and chat hours will remain as usual.
  • Most Harvard Library locations will be closed Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Ask a Librarian and chat service will be closed on these dates.
  • If you're experiencing an ongoing technical issue when you attempt to access library materials with your HarvardKey during these times, please report it to Library Technology Services.



Monday - Thursday 9am-6pm

Chat is intended for brief inquiries from the Harvard community.


Talk to a librarian for advice on defining your topic, developing your research strategy, and locating and using sources. Make an appointment now.

These services are intended primarily for Harvard University faculty, staff and students. If you are not affiliated with Harvard, please use these services only to request information about the Library and its collections.