At Advanced Higher level, it is expected that you will not only engage with the primary literature we are studying, but also with secondary critical reading, i.e. writing that explores literary theory and analysis. This type of reading can help deepen and expand your own analysis, but can also help support ideas that you have.
How it can be used
For example, this is how it can be used in a dissertation:
One of the similarities between the narrators in these novels is that they are both third person – albeit only occasionally in The Book Thief. This viewpoint can be both advantageous and disadvantageous compared to a first person viewpoint. Magorian’s use of third person narrative is advantageous in terms of him not having his own viewpoint – thus less likely to stray from the story of Willie. Chapman compares a first person narrative to someone telling a story about themselves explaining, “We leave out other facts altogether, ones which somehow spoil the story we are trying to tell. We perhaps even invent some ‘facts.’” This is an effective comparison as it not only allows us to better understand the extent of the effect a first person narrative can have on the accuracy of the story being told, but also encourages us to consider the reliability of a first person narrative – highlighting how the stability of the neutral voice of the narrator of Goodnight Mr Tom can be seen as a more reliable viewpoint.
 Harvey Chapman, Advantages of Third Person Point of View, Novel Writing Help, 2008-2017
What this critical reading has done has allowed the student to increase their understanding of the particular technique they are exploring (in this case, third person narrative), and used it to support their own argument about the more ‘reliable’ nature of third person narrative.
Where to find suitable critical reading
It may sound obvious, but libraries are crucial sources of secondary reading. Anyone can gain a reference only membership to Edinburgh University library, meaning you can access texts within the library itself, without taking them out. You can also find a huge amount of literary criticism in the Central Library on George IV Bridge.
If you’re stuck in the house, however, a wide range of critical reading can be found via Google Scholar – simply put in a some broad search terms for your chosen writers or topics, and lots of articles and books will appear. If you need a login to access some of these articles, let me know.
How to search
Don’t be too specific – for example, if I was using a library database, or Google Scholar to search for writing on Sylvia Plath, I would type in her name and another key word, say nihilism. However, don’t be afraid to read AROUND your chosen writers – often, you can find helpful critical reading on the technique or topic you are exploring that does not reference your individual writer at all – but will discuss the approach they have taken. For example, searching for “the sublime” and “poetry” could lead to some interesting articles, which could then be applied to Plath’s work.