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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

FSEM 100A4: Autism in Contemporary Literature and Film: Home

Meet your librarian

Your essays

You're writing two essays for this class, and both of them require library research.

Here's what your syllabus says:

For your first essay, you will need to offer a detailed argument in support of a critical thesis drawn from ideas/issues presented in/suggested by the Literary Representations (Essays) unit.  This paper will need to focus on some aspect of the actual lived experience of disability rather than on the literary qualities of how it is represented in the essays.  For your second essay, you will need to offer a detailed argument in support of a critical thesis about one or more of the books from our Literary Representations (Books) unit.

According to Dr. Foss, each of the two essays must cite at least three main sources. "Main source" is defined as a source that is cited at least twice in the body of your essay.


Use Quest to search the library's physical collection and the contents of most of the library's electronic databases.

Quest Logo
Search articles, books, and more...



Each item in Quest is tagged with subject terms. Search for a subject term, and you'll find all the items tagged with that term.

Here are some examples of subject terms:

  • Asperger’s syndrome 
  • Autistic children 
  • Autistic people 
  • Autism 
  • Autism in children 
  • Autism in literature 
  • Children with disabilities 
  • Parents of autistic children 
  • People with disabilities 
  • People with disabilities in literature 
  • People with disabilities in motion pictures 
  • Sociology of disability 


This video shows you how to do a basic search in Quest:

Other tools you can use

The Wikipedia logo

Background information / Tertiary sources
Background information, a.k.a. "tertiary sources," means short overviews or summaries of a topic. The top Google results for any given topic are usually background information, including sites such as Wikipedia. You can also find background information in print encyclopedias.

Background information is really useful. It's meant to be used when you're first starting your research. It helps you familiarize yourself with a new topic. However, do not cite background information. The reason why you shouldn't cite it is that it is not original. It merely repeats and summarizes what other people have said. It's better to cite the original source of the information.

Simpson Library has a large collection of print encyclopedias in the Reference section on the first floor. I recommend the Encyclopedia of Disability:



You can use Quest to search all subjects, or use individual databases to search specific subjects (such as English or Psychology). Out of the 200+ databases that UMW subscribes to, these are the most useful databases for this class:

Cartoon art of a book


Books in the library

Use Quest to discover books in the library, and then use call numbers to find those books on the shelves. Here's an explanation of how our call numbers work.

You might want to browse these areas of the shelves:

  • HV 1551 through HV 3024: People with disabilities
  • RC 553 .A88: Autism in medicine
  • RJ 506 .A9: Autism in pediatrics

You can check out as many books as you want, and keep them for five weeks. If you want more time, renew your books through the library website.

My presentation to your class

Here are the PowerPoint slides for my presentation to your class. Click in the lower right corner to expand the slides to full screen.



Types of sources

Here are the different types of sources that you'll use in your research:

  Primary sources Secondary sources Tertiary sources
What they are




  • Works of art or literature (such as the books and films you’re reading/watching for this class)
  • Interviews
  • Photos or videos
  • Memoirs or autobiographies
  • SCHOLARLY analysis (books, journal articles)
  • POPULAR analysis (magazines, news articles, web articles)
  • Wikipedia
  • Library encyclopedias
  • Textbooks
  • Study guides
How they help you They provide evidence to support your statements. They tell you what other people think about your topic. They introduce you to new concepts and help you find citable sources -- but are not themselves citable.


Please make sure that your secondary sources are all scholarly analysis, not popular analysis. Here's the difference:

  • SCHOLARLY sources are written for a narrow audience of scholars (experts who specialize in a certain field).
  • POPULAR sources are written for a broad, general audience.

This video explains the difference in more detail:

Video credit: Carnegie Vincent Library at Lincoln Memorial University.

Reference Librarian

Profile Photo
Peter Catlin

Other guides

Advice and recommendations for FSEMs in general, and for English or Psychology research.


The Citing Resources guide gives you examples of perfectly-formatted citations. Zotero is a free app that keeps track of the sources you've found, and generates citations without any typing.