Blogtober #27 ~ Essay Tips

Hi everyone! I’m currently in the middle of researching secondary criticism for my mid-term essay. In my first and second year my lecturers gave us a few places to look for literary criticism for the texts we studied. Unfortunately, in third year I’ve been left to my own devices. As I research my essays I’ll be giving you some helpful tips and hints to find the best sources to cite in your essays!

  • Have your own ideas ready. I think that this one goes without saying but you should always have prepared your own ideas about your essay topic before starting to look at what others have said about that topic. This way you can begin your search with clear ideas of what you want to look at. If you have a clear idea your research will also be clear.
  • Use your texts. A lot of editions of literary texts will include their own bibliography/footnotes so you can read the articles/journals/books that the writer of your edition used in order to put together their work. This is a good way to start your research if you’re worried about finding the right material.
  • Google Scholar. For broad context/secondary sources I always look to Google scholar. It looks for academic writing from lots of places and I always find that Google scholar can produce results that aren’t always going to appear in your library’s archives.
  • University Library. My university’s library has really developed their online material this year due to Covid. I really try to be very specific in my library searches. You can use filters to search for material written at different times, by men or women and lots of other groups. University searches make up around eighty percent of all of my secondary research as I know that the university search will only pull up peer reviewed material. This means that the articles/journals/book chapters I find via my library have been reviewed by people who are knowledgeable on the subject matter.
  • General Google Search. This can be difficult to find the good material from the bad. This kind of search can bring up lots of unnecessary information but if you are really stuck it doesn’t hurt to just Google the topic and see what comes up. My university would never accept Wikipedia as a valid source for information yet most Wikipedia articles include footnotes and citations which could lead you to academic resources.

In the end I always check in with my module coordinators to see if they have any recommendations for secondary resources to help with my essays. If you truly are struggling to find secondary material you could always go back to your essay topic and see if you could change it slightly to make researching easier. I have always found that some topics are easier to research than others. As I’ve said in previous posts try not to become overwhelmed by looking for loads of secondary material. For 2,000 words I would recommend having 5-6 different secondary critics to refer to throughout. I’m currently working hard on researching for my mid-terms and finding things for one especially difficult so I hope I can use my own advise to get things moving forward. I hope everyone is having a good week, and if you’re currently working on essays I hope you are having a good time!

Published by Allie About English

I am a 20 year old student who loves reading books which helps because my degree consists of reading books and writing essays.

One thought on “Blogtober #27 ~ Essay Tips

  1. My uni modules had secondary reading lists – if you don’t have one as part of any module handbook, ask for one!

    The other thing I still do now, potentially laborious but massively labour-saving in the long run, is keep and maintain a database of useful secondary quotations/citations, which I’ve key-worded. That way, it’s far easier to find something I might have read a few months/years ago which is useful NOW …

    Liked by 1 person

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