Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Literature refers to written material.

explanatory context

However, what exactly constitutes literature, hence what is said to be literary, is the subject of enormous debate. Does literature also include drama, as the latter is primarily presented in spoken form when performed ? Does literature only refer to creative literature ? Does literature include all fiction, for example, or only a selective sub-set ? If so, what distinguishes literary from non-literary writing ? How are such decisions about the nature of literary merit taken ?


If literature is considered as a sub-set of written material then problems of elitism and exclusiveness and questions about the class, gender and racial basis of literature are raised.

analytical review

Price (2010) wrote:

Literature comes from the word for letters in Latin: litterae. It is the art of written work, but it is not confined to published sources. Under some circumstances unpublished sources can be included. The word literature literally means "acquaintance with letters." A part of literature, written work, is often taken for the whole or, as it is said in Latin: pars pro toto. If one is a student of is usually a student of some part of literature, of its total corpus. The term "letters" is sometimes used to signify "literature," as in the figures of speech "arts and letters" and "man of letters." The four major classifications of literature are: poetry, prose, fiction, and non-fiction.

Literature can be defined as texts based on factual information as is found in journalistic or non-fiction writing. Literature can also be seen as original imaginative writing from polemical works: (a) writing related to controversy, argument and refutation, as well as (b) biography, autobiography and reflective essays. The content of what is found in belles-lettres is also part of literature. Literature can be divided according to historical periods, genres, and political influences.

associated issues


related areas

See also


literary criticism

literary theory


Price, R., 2010, Literature: Introduction, available at, accessed 25 January 2013, quote still availableat the address 9 June 2019 under 'Part A' .

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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