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FREN 310: Introduction to French Short Fiction: Finding Criticism

Finding Criticism

For your research assignment in this class, you'll need to compile a bibliography of five sources that demonstrate a critical approach to a text, author, or literary movement covered in the course.

Not sure where to start?  Here are three broad strategies that you can try:

  • Browse key journals for scholarship related to French literature and culture
  • Search a subject database, such as the MLA International Bibliography 
  • Search Primo for print and ebooks related to your topic

Featured Journals

If you're not sure yet what you're interested in, or you're interested in so many different aspects of French literature that you can't decide where to focus, you might want to just browse through scholarly journals to see what catches your eye. These journals contain articles related to French and Francophone literature, history, and culture.

Search Primo

General Primo Search Tips

  • Use the pull-down scoping options to search Collins, Summit and Articles OR Collins and Summit, OR just Collins.
  • Use quotes to search for "exact titles".
  • Use the filters on the right side to quickly narrow your search.
  • Sign in with your Puget Sound username and password to gain access to online resources and request items from other libraries.

Using Library of Congress Subject Headings

Collins Library, like most academic libraries in the United States, uses Library of Congress Subject Headings to describe the content of books. If you are researching an author about whom much has been written, you can use Library of Congress Subject subheadings to help pinpoint your search.

Here are several examples of the various ways you can use LCSH to help pinpoint what you need:

Marie, de France, active 12th century â€‹

Marie, de France, active 12th century -- Criticism and interpretation​

Flaubert, Gustave, 1821-1880

Flaubert, Gustave, 1821-1880 -- Criticism and interpretation


French literature -- To 1500 -- History and criticism

French literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism

Classicism -- France

Decadence (Literary movement) -- France

Reading Criticism

Texts that interpret literary works are usually persuasive texts. Literary critics may conduct a close reading of a work, critique a literary work from the stance of a particular literary theory, or debate the soundness of other critics' interpretations. 

During the preview phase, you'll want to concentrate on these key elements:

  • Abstract (if available)
  • First paragraph (sometimes the second paragraph, too):  What is the writer’s central claim? What research question is the author asking?
  • Evidence:  What kind of evidence does the writer use to support their claim? Are there quotations from the text(s)? From other critics/scholars? From theorists?
  • Scholarly conversation:  What are the other scholarly works (secondary sources) the author uses? Does the author acknowledge counter-arguments? How does this interpretation connect to your own close reading of the text?
  • Conclusion (typically the last paragraph):  How does the author tie the evidence together to answer the research question? What is the significance of this research?

Once you've selected the article, you can actively read for content, argument, analysis and evaluation. 

Tip: Read the article more than once!  It may help to print out a copy so that you can make notes.

Tipasa: Interlibrary Loan

Tipasa logo

If your article is not available at Collins Library, you've got another option for getting it. Use Tipasa, our interlibrary loan service.

Tipasa is linked to your library account so you'll need to log in to use it.

Once you are logged in, either go directly to Tipasa and manually enter the information, or, if you're using a database, look for a shortcut link to automatically fill out the form, like this:

Interlibrary Loan Link

Allow at least a week for the article to come. If your article is delivered in electronic format, you'll receive an email with a link to follow as soon as it's arrived.

Search a Subject Database: the MLA International Bibliography

Like most other disciplines, scholarship related to French Studies can be found in several subject-specific databases. The MLA International Bibliography is one example. Subject databases index scholarly materials (books, chapters in books, scholarly articles, dissertations) that will be of interest to researchers within that discipline. MLAIB is the key database for literature, linguistics, and related areas.

For this assignment, you'll want to limit your results to just articles or books. Click on the "check for full text" link to see if Collins Library has the journal or you need to order it through interlibrary loan.


Additional Subject Databases:

Electronic Journal Collections

In most cases, you'll be better served by searching MLAIB or the subject databases above.  However, if you have a topic that is very multidisciplinary, searching these electronic journal collections might be useful.

Database Search Tips

Always use the advanced search interface and some combination of the following techniques to increase the effectiveness of your searches:

Search Technique   What It Does
quotation marks Searches for exact phrase
Truncation (usually an *) Searches for all forms of a word
Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) Lets you broaden or narrow your search
Database thesaurus or index             Allows you to pinpoint the exact indexing terms the database uses

Searching for Non-English Articles

To locate items in other languages, try: 

  • Typing your search terms in the language of interest and see if you find citations. 
  • Limiting your results to a particular language in a search field or as a limit option.

Additional Tips:

  • If you want to include articles or prepositions in your search, remember to use the double quote marks with the search term. Example: “Marie de France”
  • Diacritics may or may not be detected in your search. To be safe, type the search word without the diacritic: Example: “Molière”— type as “Moliere”
  • Some databases search the full-text of an article (e.g., JSTOR) while others only search the abstract. Keep this in mind when typing in your search since the article may be in French, but the abstract will probably only be in English.
  • If all else fails, read the "Help" pages for your online resource. 

Database Practice

Using the MLA International Bibliography and one additional database, look for articles about or relating to an author or text from the course. Compare the results you find in each database, including the amount of information, subjects covered, and types of sources in your results. 

  • What types of materials are included and/or indexed in the database? Journal articles, books, all of the above?
  • What are the date ranges of coverage? How current is the information?
  • Can you identify any popular themes or topics related to your chosen author or text?
  • How can you get to the full text of articles?
  • How can you save an article for later or send it to yourself?
  • Are there any tools to help you cite articles?

Need Help?

This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you. If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!

Katy Curtis, Humanities Librarian
Schedule an appointment
tel: (253) 879-3672
office: Collins Library 140

If you can't find Katy, remember there are several ways to get help with your research

For immediate assistance, connect to our 24/7 Ask a Librarian chat service.