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Comparative Literature: A Library Research Guide for Concentrators: Research Advice

Compiled by Mary George, Spring 2015; revised by John Logan, 27 February 2019

Practical Matters

1.      Edition of primary text(s) – make sure your adviser concurs. Ditto if you are using a translation.

2.      Start a research log to

a.      Document all your research efforts: what you do on a given day  and what you discover.

b.      Record your insights & questions to pursue later. (This will also make it easier to summarize your work when you confer with your advisor or a librarian.)

c.       Maintain crucial lists throughout the research process

Vocabulary: synonyms of key words/phrases [in all your research languages!]
Subject headings (from the Library of Congress) you see on the long view of any Main Catalog record
Call numbers for books (so you can browse the actual shelves and do a virtual browse in our catalog)
Descriptors (aka tags) assigned to sources in each article database or print index you search
Names of scholars, research centers, discipline associations that focus on your topic
Journals and book publishers that specialize in your author or approach
Any sources you request via Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan

3.      Choose and master a bibliographic manager to keep track of your sources and to save you immense amounts of time when you are writing and creating your list of works cited..

4.      Search Princeton’s Main Catalog, doing a Guided Search with your key words and synonyms. Identify a relevant book, then click the long view to see subject headings and additional descriptive information. (Alternatively you can use the Books+ interface, but we recommend the Advanced Search option, which is the equivalent of a guided search with multiple boxes.)

5.      Search Princeton's finding aids for to identify manuscripts and other unique materials by/about your author.

6.      Search Princeton’s Senior Thesis Catalog by your key words and phrases, or by the name of your advisor, then go to the Mudd Manuscript Library to read any that might be helpful, for their content or as models for your own work.

Contextual and Conceptual Matters

1.      Who’s who? What happened where and when? [facts of author’s life] 

2.      Who cares? [scholars in which other disciplines might focus on your author or primary source] 

3.      Background of text: before, during, after creation and publication 

4.      Read one or more relevant articles in special encyclopedias, for instance, the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism [2005; PN81 .J554 2005 in both the Trustee Reading Room and the Scribner Room (B-12-J); also exists as e-book] or the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics [2012; PN1021 .N39 2012 in the Trustee Reading Room, Firestone stacks, and Comparative Literature Graduate Study Room]. 

5.      Related primary sources (depending our your research questions) 

a.      Letters

b.      Diaries

c.      Memoirs or autobiography by your author or his/her associates

d.      Interviews/oral history

e.      Popular press/newspaper/social media coverage

f.       Archival collections elsewhere 

6.      Issues surrounding the role of secondary authors, such as 

a.      Contemporary or family member

b.      Reviewer

c.      Critic

d.      Scholar

e.      Translator

f.       Interpreter

g.      Performer