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Literary Criticism

Keywords for Literary Criticism

As you get started searching for articles about literary criticism, there are a few strategies you could try. Remember, searching in library databases is a trial-and-error process, so it is common and normal to do a few searches in the database before you find what you are looking for.

Your first search should always be the Author's Name AND Title of Literary Work. This will make sure that you are finding all of the articles the library has in general about a literary work.


Shakespeare AND Hamlet

Edgar Allan Poe AND "The Cask of Amontillado" 

Emily Dickinson AND "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"

Once you finish your initial search, you can do some additional searches to find more specific articles about different themes and literary elements. This is where you will use additional keywords to help you find articles. Check out the below slideshow to learn about how to come up with additional keywords.

Additional Searching Strategies

Below are some additional search strategies you can use to find articles.

Boolean Operators

To search multiple keywords at once, you need to use connector terms, also called Boolean Operators. Using a Boolean Operator will tell the database to connect the terms together in your search.

There are three Boolean Operators:

  • AND: All keywords must appear in your results. AND will narrow down a search.
    • Examples: O'Connor AND "Good Country People"
  • OR: Either of the keywords must appear in the results. OR will give you more results.
    • Examples: madness OR insanity
  • NOT: Excludes certain keywords from your results. NOT will narrow down a search.
    • Examples: Edgar Allan Poe NOT "The Raven"

Depending on the database you are using, there may be place to choose which Boolean Operator you want to use, or you may have to type them in with your keywords.

Check out the below video from McMaster Libraries to learn more about Boolean Operators.

Quotation Marks

Sometimes you may want to search for a phrase (2 or more words) in a database. When you are searching phrases, put quotation marks around the phrase. This will tell the database to search the phrase as a whole, instead of as individual words.


"The Things They Carried"

"gender roles"

"science fiction"

Check out the below video from Ilana Kingsley to learn more about using quotation marks in your search.


Try using an online Thesaurus to see if there are any synonyms for your keywords you can use for a future search. Not every article will describe a concept in the same way, so it can be helpful to try a search using synonyms of your keywords.