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ENGB05: Critical Writing about Literature

A guide to assist ENGB05 students with finding and using library resources to complete a major literary research essay.

Recommendation: Go into the Library and Browse books

Some students avoid using books because they don't want to physically go into the Library.  Books are a rich source of information for the study of Literature, and can help you write a better essay. 

1.  Books are shelved by topic.  So you'll find several books related to your assignment in the same spot:  Take a few minutes to browse the books (check the Table of Contents, book jacket, index), and you'll probably leave with a few more books then you expected.

2. A book's title is not a good indicator of whether or not its relevant to your assignment.  It's worth going to a relevant area in the library and browsing books:  This makes searching for books online problematic, as you get fairly little information about a book from the Library catalogue.  Go to the Library, and browse books in the correct area to see if they're relevant.  Remember the whole book doesn't (and generally won't) be right on your topic.  A chapter or two of pertinent material is good enough to use a book as a source.

Tip:  Remember that unless your researching a VERY VERY famous text (example:  Hamlet) you almost certainly WON'T find a book completely devoted to criticism of that text.  Search for criticism of the author.  When you find a book, check the table of contents and index to see if the texts your writing about are discussed.

Refine your Results

Once you have performed a search, you can refine your results by using a filter. You can filter by:

  • Library
  • Subject
  • Author
  • Format
  • Publication Year
  • Language

Library Catalogue: Learn how to find books relevant to your assignment

Search for books using the Library Catalogue.

Example:  Sherman Alexie is an aboriginal author.  One of his recent works was a novel titled Flight.

Some examples:

1.To find a novel, search by title and/or author.

sherman alexie AND flight

2. To find a poem or short story, search for the book title in which it appeared.

3.  If you are looking for criticism of a text, remember that unless a work is extremely well known, you will not be able to find an entire book about it. Instead, search for books on the criticism of the author.

ex. sherman alexie AND criticism

Once you have found a book, check the table of contents and index for chapters/information related to your work.


4. To find books on a theme addressed in your texts, enter terms representing that theme.

ex. portrayl of aboriginals in literature 

For additional assistance using the catalogue, see the link below.

Finding the Books


In order to find your book at UTSC Library, write down the location and the call number.  Books are arranged by call number on the shelves in the Library.  (Just ask a librarian if you have any trouble finding a book you need.)  Get the book (or books) off the shelf, bring it to the Circulation Desk (front desk) and give the book(s) and your T-card to a staff member.  The staff member will check the books out for you and you can take them home.




As a UTSC student, you can borrow books from other U of T libraries.  You are welcome to visit libraries at St. George or at UTM.  However, you may also have the books sent to Scarborough.  Simply click REQUEST, type in your barcode from your T-card and your PIN number (last four digits of your student number), and the book will be sent to UTSC Library within 3 business days.  You will receive an e-mail when it arrives.  Remember to bring your T-card to the library to take the book out.

Example:  This book is at Robarts Library and University College Library on the St. George campus.  Click Request and provide the required information to have the book delievered to UTSC library.