Find Background and Context for Your Topic

Use the following reference sources to find background information, context, and definitions. For other helpful titles, ask us for suggestions.


  • Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online.
    Several volumes added each year. Detroit: Gale/Cengage.
    (print version: Uris Library Reference PS 129 .D55)
    Biographical and critical essays in 350+ volumes on the lives, works, and careers of major writers from all eras and genres.
    To identify volumes on short story authors, search dictionary [in title] AND short story [as a phrase] in our Library Catalog.
  • Literature Resource Center.
    A complete literature database combining biographical, bibliographical, and contextual information on authors and their works (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, history, and journalism). Draws from Gale Group's core literary databases including Contemporary authors, Dictionary of literary biography, and Contemporary literary criticism. Provides additional search capability for Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of literature and Gale literary index.
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. 4th edition. Oxford University Press, 2015.
    (print version: Olin Library Reference PN 41 .C67 2015)
    Clear, concise definitions of the most troublesome literary terms, from abjection to zeugma, and increased coverage of new terms from modern critical and theoretical movements, such as feminism, schools of American poetry, Spanish verse forms, life writing, and crime fiction.