Below are three recommendations for conducting research in literary criticism. MLA International Bibliography is the leading resource for literature and language studies. Start with this one! ASC and JSTOR are great multi-disciplinary databases covering a wide range of subjects. For more database suggestions, check out our Library Database A-Z list.
The MLA International Bibliography with Full Text combines the definitive index for the study of language, literature, linguistics, rhetoric and composition, folklore, and film with full text for more than 1,000 journals, including many of the leading publications in these fields. Produced by the Modern Language Association (MLA) and international in scope, the bibliography covers scholarly publications from the early 20th century to the present, including journal articles, books, series, translations, websites, and dissertations. The database also includes MLA Directory of Periodicals and the MLA Thesaurus.
JSTOR is collection of core scholarly journals, many going back to the first volume. Emphasis is on back issue coverage and does not include the current 3-5 years, unless Gordon has a current subscription to the journal. JSTOR provides long term preservation for journals.
Academic Search Complete offers an enormous collection of full-text journals, providing users access to critical information from many sources unique to this database. In addition, it includes peer-reviewed full text for STEM research, as well as for the social sciences and humanities. Scholarly content covers a broad range of important areas of academic study, including anthropology, engineering, law, sciences and more.
WHAT CAN I FIND IN A LIBRARY DATABASE?
Library databases are best used for searching for peer-reviewed journal articles. What is a peer-reviewed journal article? It means that the article is written by an expert in the field of study and reviewed/edited (sometimes called refereed or scholarly) by several experts within that same field of study. Only after the article makes it through the peer-review process can it be published in a scholarly article.
The building block of a library database search is keywords. Keywords are central ideas or terms within your research question or problem. For research in literature, use the author's name as a keyword and the title of the work you are study as another keyword. For example: Borges, Jorge Luis AND "la muerte y la brujula" OR "death and the compass."
BOOLEAN SEARCH OPERATORS
Once you have your keywords identified (2-3 is a good place to begin), you then need to connect them together in a way the database understands how to search. This is done using the Boolean search operators AND, OR, and NOT. Connecting keywords using these search operators creates a search string. For example: prime numbers AND probability.
ENTER KEYWORDS IN DATABASE SEARCH BOXES
Enter each keyword onto its own search line. If you have an OR string, include the entire string in one search box.
Below the search boxes are limiters that can be set to help filter and narrow your results. To search for scholarly articles, remember to check the scholarly (peer-reviewed) checkbox. Other useful limiter options are the date range. Since you are analyzing contemporary topics, you might consider limiting the date range boxes to the last 5 or 10 years.
USING SEARCH RESULTS
Do not limit your search to just one database. Instead look at a variety of databases both subject specific and interdisciplinary to make sure you are viewing the full scope of literature published on your topic.