Working like a researcher begins with personal experience. Most of us identify some places as cities but ‘city’ is also a concept, as is ‘urban’, and the latter is not just an adjective describing the former but rather marks out a different approach to the built-up areas humans have established throughout their history but increasingly since 1800 or so. Reasons for studying cities in literary studies develop from the concepts of place and space. Like them, ‘the city’ is a concept (and so is ‘urban’). Here cartography and genre become analytical helpers in exploring the city concept. A discussion of methods and materials includes close and distant reading as contrasting methods, and considers cities as a category of material for literary scholars. Classic metropolitan city texts by Charles Dickens, Amy Levy and Toni Morrison are a test-bed for these thoughts about concept, the researcher’s stance or outlook, and the questionable nature of disciplinary boundaries.