English Language & Literature

James Murray at work editing the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, circa 1900.  Only the electronic version  of the OED continues to be revised: OED Online.

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.

     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. 
     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.

     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.

     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.

Research Help

Quick Links

  • Oxford English Dictionary (OED Online)  
  • Hutchinson Dictionary of Word Origins
  • 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. 

History of English

  • History of the English Language: An outstanding gateway site created by English faculty at the University of Toronto.
  • Words in English: Good collection of English resources from Suzanne Kemmer at Rice University. Use the drop-down menus along the top to navigate, beginning with "History."
  • English Timeline: Use the flash version of this British Library site with well-selected specimens of English and its evolution from the 11th century to the present.
  • The Labyrinth: Old English: A gateway to Old English and Anglo-Saxon Resources.
  • Middle English Dictionary: From the University of Michigan--the biggest, one of the best, and all electronically searchable.
  • Early Modern English: A useful collection of links from Carol Percy at the University of Toronto.

Rhetoic & Composition

  • Bartleby.com Reference Collection: Full text access includes the American Heritage Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus, the American Heritage Book of English Usage, The Columbia Guide to Standard English, Fowler's The King's English, and Mencken's The American Language.
  • OWL: Online Writing Lab (Purdue University): Use the "Navigation" menu on the left.
  • Guide to Grammar & Writing: Writing guides at the sentence, paragraph, and essay levels, with helpful illustrations.
  • Common Errors in English: Devoted to common mistakes in word usage, especially terms confused with one another. Scroll down the home page for alphabetical index.

Contact Us

picture of Kelly Hallisy
Humanities Librarian
(607) 274-1198


Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis)  search for news, business, legal, medical, and congressional information

New York Times (1851-2013) 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.  


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.

Where's the Full Text for this Article?

     Clicking "GETIT" checks (almost all) the IC Library's other databases to see if any offers the full text of the article--or if the Library has a print subscription to the journal in which the article appeared.