Skip to main content

* English Research Guide

Topic Finder

Focused on a certain work or author but not sure what to write about? Try the Literature Resource Center's Topic Finder tool. Just type in the name of a work or an author and you'll see some main ideas and themes that have been written about.

Here's a sample showing the search results for the author J.R.R. Tolkien. 


Circle broken down into many topics and subtopics. The selected topic displays in the middle of the circle and relevant results are listed on the right.

The resources below are good for finding background info on your topic and figuring out where to start.

Online Encyclopedias and Guides

Print Encyclopedias and Guides

The library also has many useful print encyclopedias and guides in the P - PT section in the Reference Room (call number starts with "Ref") or on the 3rd floor. Many of the encyclopedias are dedicated to a literary movement, genre, ethnicity, or specific author.  Below are some examples of major titles. 

If you're having trouble finding any of these, please feel free to ask at the Research Help desk!

Research Starters

A collection of 100+ reference titles available in full-text electronically. Search the entire collection, or search selected titles using "advanced search."

Britannica® Academic delivers fast and easy access to high-quality, comprehensive information. The rich combination of the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica plus Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, magazines and periodicals, and many other research tools provides the variety of reliable sources that students need to consult when conducting thorough research—all from one resource.

CQ Researcher

Excellent background and analysis of recent national and international issues in the news.


Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Access viewpoint articles, topic overviews, statistics, primary documents, links to websites, and full-text magazine and newspaper articles. Great for current issues research.

Need Help Getting Started?

confused person with question marks above their head

Try out the Lake Effect Research Challenge for tips on forming your topic, finding resources, and citing sources.

Plan Your Research

Be sure to allow plenty of time to go through your selected sources.

The Assignment Calculator can help you plan your work. Create an account to receive email alerts to keep you on schedule.

Ask a Librarian