Conducting good research of literary topics often necessitates the examination of archival material.
This is the "raw data" of scholarship. Literary scholars use as many primary sources as possible. For researchers interested only in the intellectual content, the transcribed words in print, microfilmed, or Web format suffice.
However, literary researchers generally prefer to examine the actual original form of a primary source, (e.g. the physical letter, the actual manuscript which Wordworth or Graham Greene wrote).
While a photocopy of the original letter or manuscript provides the intellectual data, the "thrill" of handling an original handwritten poem of Edgar Allan Poe is generally much greater than looking at a copy.
The numerous special collections and archives in greater metropolitan Boston means that the literary scholar has tremendous opportunities for accessing important original primary sources.
To help ascertain what primary material local (and other) libraries hold, the following databases are very useful: