There are many different types of resources that literary scholars must be aware. In this section, the focus will be on those resources that will lead the scholar to other sources: guides, subject lists, bibliographies of bibliography, bibliographies, web portals, unions lists, literary dictionaries, encyclopedias, periodical indexes, etc. Please note that those sources specific to emigre studies are in a separate section and have a wealth of material on literature. Until the 1980s many of the resources available were listed in guides to the discipline. Since that time, new guides have not been published. Supplanting them, to some extent, are a variety of web resources of varying quality. However, it is always a mistake to overlook the paper resources.
So where does one begin with literary queries? As in other areas, the first step must be a careful analysis of the type of answer you are seeking.
Do you need a list of titles?
Are you looking for biographical information, publication information or some other specific fact related to literature?
Are you trying to trace the usage of a particular term?
What is the time period concerned?
Are there issues of censorship involved that could affect the availability of the information you need?
Is the work one that could be classified as folk literature or even children’s literature? Will these be included in specialized bibliographies? Will general literary bibliographies be a source for this subject?
Answering these questions before you begin will help you to decide on the most useful type of source to seek out in beginning your research. Once you have identified the type of source you need a subject guide or library catalog will be, by far the specific tool for necessary for your research.
The structure of the source my itself be helpful in your research. Many guides are organized around the types of sources available, with sections on personal bibliographies, biographical sources, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. Gaining a familiarity with the universe of sources that are relevant to your research can prevent serious omissions in your work. Subject headings in library catalogs frequently include subdivisions for “dictionary” or “bibliography,” for example, which can help you find the categories of resources you need.
Russian literature is well indexed, at least for those individuals, subject areas and genres who were not censored for religious or political reasons. This is an issue for both the imperial and Soviet periods. The underground literature has its own set of sources. As with most of areas research today, a thorough search will require the use of online and paper resources.
One advantage to gaining a familiarity with the paper guides is that the scholar will quickly become aware of the possible sources of information open to him/her. The online guides usually limit themselves to other online resources. While these can be very helpful they often lack the retrospective depth necessary for a serious study of a literary work. The paper sources, of course, are “closed” resources including references only to those titles available at the time of publication. However, the more recent publications often do include online resources as well as print materials.