English Language & Literature

"The Knight's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Ellsmere manuscript (1400-1405)     

Recommended Databases

     MLA International Bibliography  provides the most complete and fully indexed coverage of articles and books on modern literatures, linguistics, folklore, rhetoric, and composition from 1925 to the present. There is ample full text provided by ProQuest, as well as links to full-text articles in JSTOR and Project Muse. Full text from other IC databases is also readily available via the "GetIt" links below article citations.
     Because books, book chapters/essays, and dissertations will usually not be available full text, you may wish to limit your search to "Journal article" under "Source type."
     "Author's Work" and "Author as Subject" will be especially helpful search fields at finding literary criticism. And for additional search field options either click on "Show more fields," or, for the complete list, open the drop-down menus to the right of the "Anywhere" default for the top three rows of search slots. This list includes both "Literary Influence"--who influenced a particular author you have entered--and "Literary Source"--who was influenced by that particular author.
     If you set up a free "My Research" account with Proquest (top right), you can save all the articles you check, any searches you want to remember, and set up e-mail or RSS notification for new articles that match your search terms.
     Literature Compass: Not a database but "an online-only journal publishing peer-reviewed survey articles of the most important research and current thinking from across the entire discipline." You will find this resource especially useful for its survey articles on recent critical trends in all major periods.  
     From the journal's home page you can enter database-type Title, Author, and Keyword searches.  
     JSTOR has excellent 100% full-text coverage of literary scholarship. There is no Subject searching, so remember to put titles and authors' names in quotation marks to search them as Keyword phrases--and leave authors' names in the normal first-name last-name order. Set "Limit" to "Article"--or else you may unleash an avalanche of reviews of books on your topic.
     JSTOR access to journal articles begins 2-4 years prior to the present--so don't look for any criticism from the last couple of years--but coverage always extends back to the first issue of each journal--in some cases into the 19th century and beyond.
    Project Muse , although a smaller database, it complements JSTOR.  LIke JSTOR it provides 100% full text of mostly scholarly journals, but its coverage is entirely current--mainly spanning the last 10-15 years.  Muse offers a basic keyword search (be sure to put the titles of literary works in quotation marks).  Once you've retrieved a set of articles you can sort them into broad categories using the Research Area options on the left.  
    Note: Checking the "Articles" box under Content Type before you run a search will eliminate reviews of books about your topic and leave you with just the articles on your topic.

     ProQuest Research Library & Academic Search Premier are comprehensive databases  and include considerable literary criticism--much of it full text. In running searches on authors, don't settle for a Keyword search on the author's name, as this will retrieve too many articles in which the author is only mentioned in passing. Instead use the specialized Subject search each provides.
In ProQest enter the author's name, last name first, in the "Person" slot.
In Academic Search Premier open the "Select a Field" drop down menu and search the author's name, last name first, in the "People" field.
     In both databases the titles of literary works must be searched as Keyword phrases, so be sure to put them in quotation marks.
     In both databases you can set a "Document Type" limit to "Interview"--if it's a contemporary writer.    And for a contemporary writer you might also try an "Author" search, since many writers publish criticism and social commentary that might shed light on their creative work.

     General OneFile is another comprehensive database with considerable literary criticism, but the default Subject search forcess you to retrieve EVERYTHING on a particular author. The standard "subdivisions" by which General OneFile organizes these results--"Ethical Aspects," Political Aspects," "Social Aspects"--are broad in respect to authors.  So-- 
   If you wish to focus on a specific literary work, open "Advanced Search" and in the "Select Index" box choose "Named Work": this allows you to run a Subject search on a title.
     If you wish to focus on a particular a theme, the best strategy is to open all the results from the initial Subject search on the author and then use the the "Search within these Results" slot at the upper left to enter thematic Keywords.
     PsycINFO & SocINDEX with Full Text : As the names suggest, these are good resources for articles on authors and literary works from a psychological or sociological perspective.

     ERIC (Ebsco interface) is an Education database where you can find many scholarly articles on the interpretation and teaching of literary texts at the levels of both secondary and higher education. 

     New York Times (1851-2009) offers the full text of the New York Times from 1851 up to 2006, so you can access contemporary reviews of  Twain, Tennyson, Hemingway, and Joyce.  Enter a Keyword search, putting phrases in quotation marks. You might begin by searching in the “Citation and Abstract” field, then, if this doesn’t yield enough results, expand to the default “Citation and document text” field.  

     Literary Reference Center : The emphasis here is on articles from a wide range of reference resources, including Magill's Survey of American Literature, Cyclopedia of World Literature, Continuum Encyclopedia of British Literature, Masterplots, etc.  There is also access to the Critical Insights book series published by Salem Press, each volume dedicated to a single author or a single work. Both the reference works and the Critical Insights series provide very basic biography and interpretation, but these are supplemented by selected scholarly articles.
     The simplest approach may be to enter a single author or a particular work in the "Most Studied Authors" or "Most Studied Works" sections of the "Browse" box. An Author or Work record will offer you "Related Information" categories such as "Literary Criticism," "Reference Books," "Biography," and "Plot Summaries." 
     In addition to literary criticism and reference, there is a wide range of full-text literary works supplied (mostly) by Project Gutenberg.

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Lisabeth Chabot

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MLA Literary Research Guide

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MLA Citation

MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. Here is my guide to the latest (2016) update of the MLA style.