The companion and handbook genre is a publication type that has flourished in the last decade. The goal is for leading scholars to provide a thorough description of the subject matter of a field while also giving the most current interpretations of key questions. Each essay in a companion reflects an important subject facet and identifies the books and articles which are crucial for a greater understanding. Companions for English include:
Cambridge Introductions – 81 titles
Oxford Companions and Handbooks - 79 titles
Blackwell Companions to Literature & Culture - 107 titles
Cambridge Companions to Literature - 217 titles
Literature reviews are a particularly useful resource when doing research. They address the issues involved in a particular question and the debates among scholars. They map out the intellectual terrain succinctly and give you the major landmarks in terms of key authors and significant titles for greater understanding. It is one of the best places to find discussion of issues that are unresolved or in contention.
Portrait of the actor Ira Aldredge as Othello (Wikimedia Commons)