Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Research in Literary Studies

by Dr. Eric Doise

Determining the credibility of a sourch in Literary Studies is much the same as most disciplines. Preferably, articles are published in a respected, peer-reviewed journal by an expert in the field (generally someone with an advanced degree or a publication history in the sub-discipline). Integration and documentation of other reliable sources must be present. Books should adhere to many of the same guidelines, with publication coming from a university press or select private presses like Routledge. While writing does need to be current, that timeframe may be a bit bigger than disciplines like medicine and computer science, although exceptions do exist. For example, scholarship on some of Greek mythology may not have changed significantly over the course of a decade or more. However, if a recent anthropological discovery has changed how we understand some of those myths, you would want to focus on scholarship that takes that discovery into account. Also, keep in mind that some writers/texts fall out of favor with scholars for various reasons, and if you’re writing on such a text, you might find little relevant scholarship from the past decade.

Scholarly journals

Some of the primary journals in Literary Studies include PMLA, and for the teaching of literature, NCTE is a top resource. Again, though, each sub-discipline has its own primary journals. Databases such as Project Muse and JSTOR will likely prove useful.

Trade publications

Unlike creative writing, literary studies does not seem to have a widely read trade publication. The MLA sometimes publishes information you’d typically find in a trade publication on its website, like its annual job report. NCTE journals sometimes publish individual trade publication-like pieces. Blogs by professors and articles in publications focused on higher education generally, like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, do often include information important to the trade. This kind of information is mostly used when writing about the state of the field and when looking for practical information, like sample assignments.

Open Internet resources

The call for more open-access online journals has intensified as of late, and although some experts in the field view those journals with skepticism, most of the journals host credible research. Researching the reputation of such journals is recommended, although it’s a good idea to do so for pay-walled journals as well. Blogs and websites may be useful in the early stages of the research process, but because experts in the field overwhelmingly reserve their final drafts for publication in scholarly journals and books, most open Internet resources outside of those open-access academic journals should not play a central part in research and writing in the field.

Government agencies

Agencies like the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) are important sources of funding for some research, and some researchers may rely on information from government agencies, depending on what other disciplines they incorporate into their research. However, these agencies have little direct impact on the research.

Statement of Ethics and Research

The most appropriate statement of ethics for literary studies would be the MLA Statement of Professional Ethics, although it covers more than just literary studies. The primary concern in the field is plagiarism, which isn’t rampant but does surface occasionally.