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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

FSEM 100C7: Sexuality in Southern Literature: Home

Meet your librarian

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.



Your assignments

For this class, you'll be doing three assignments that require library research: your Author Presentation, your Sexuality Presentation, and a final project that involves both a presentation and an essay. Here's my advice for these projects:

Author Presentation and Sexuality Presentation

For your Author Presentation and your Sexuality Presentation, think broad, not deep. You're being asked to give an overview of an entire topic, in a very short period of time. You won't have time to cover every narrow detail. For this reason, I recommend that you use broad sources, such as books or specialized encyclopedias, more than narrow sources such as journal articles.

Caution symbolCaution! When researching sexuality, avoid pornography. Pornography isn't helpful, because it isn't an accurate portrayal of anything but pornography itself. In order to avoid pornography, research your sexuality topic through the library instead of through Google.


Final Project

The final project is different. Think deep, not broad. It's not an overview, it's a deep dive into a topic of your choosing. You won't just be stating facts, you'll be arguing for a conclusion. Here's what the syllabus says:

"You will complete a project that synthesizes close readings of two literary texts discussed in class, Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex,” at least three additional secondary sources, and your own lived experience and argues how a specific element of sexuality circulates within southern culture."

Even though you only need to find three additional secondary sources, you should expect to read many more than three secondary sources. Reading widely is a necessary step in the search for the best sources.

Advice for your course

Background information
Learn the basics of a topic by reading background information (overviews and summaries). Wikipedia is useful for this. You can also use encyclopedias in the Reference section of Simpson Library. I recommend these encyclopedias:



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


Call number ranges

Browse these areas in Simpson Library to find relevant books on the shelves:

  • PN 56 .S5: Sex in literature
  • PN 56 .H57: Homosexuality in literature
  • PS 261 - PS 267: Literature of the American South

The research process

I recommend that you follow these steps:

Step 1: Reread the assignment description

  • This class has several research assignments: the Author Presentation, the Sexuality Presentation, and a final project that includes both a presentation and an essay. Make sure you understand what's expected of you for each of these assignments.

Step 2: Find a topic (For the Author Presentation and the Sexuality Presentation, your topic will be assigned to you, so you can skip this step.)

  • Good topics are out there, but you have to go look for them! At this stage, don't worry about whether a source is scholarly or not -- you're just looking for ideas. Google and Wikipedia are useful at this stage. Look for topics that are interesting, and make sure to pick a topic for which the library has plenty of sources.

Step 3: Find overviews of your topic

  • In addition to Wikipedia, you can also use the encyclopedias in the Reference section of the library, such as the ones recommended above.
  • When you read an overview, take notes! Write down words and phrases that you could use as search terms. If you're lucky, the overview will have a list of citations at the end. Write down interesting citations, too.

Step 4: Find sources

  • Search in Quest and/or the databases recommended above. Look for different types of sources -- books for broad information, or articles for narrow information.
  • What should you type in the search boxes? Start by searching for the concepts that describe your topic, but don't stop there! Also try searching for concepts or sources from your notes, to follow the leads that you've discovered.
  • Evaluate the sources you find! Use only sources that are high-quality and are relevant to your topic. You may want to refer to the library's Evaluating Resources guide. 

Step 5: Read!

  • Before this point, you've only been skimming sources. Now that you've identified the best sources, read them closely and carefully.
  • As you read, you might come across more leads (new words/concepts, or citations to other sources). Follow these leads! Go back and forth, repeatedly, between reading (Step 5) and using what you read to find more sources (Step 4).

Step 6: Write your paper, or plan your presentation -- and cite your sources

  • See the UMW Libraries' guide to Citing Resources for more information.  Both the library and the Writing Center can help you cite sources correctly.  

Basic introduction to Quest

Reference Librarian

Peter Catlin's picture
Peter Catlin

Other guides

Advice and recommendations for FSEMs in general, and for English literature 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.


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

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Search articles, books, and more...