Researching Literature

Primary Databases:

MultiSearch: This database is an umbrella database, encompassing all sorts of databases with scholarly articles from a wide variety of disciplines (history, philosophy, science, etc.) rather than just literature alone.  This database is quite slow because of its broad scope, but it is also very useful for researching the cultural or historical context of the literature that you study.  Pick “Humanities” in the first screen to narrow the scope to what you will most likely be researching. 

MLA Bibliography: This database is the most important and comprehensive database for literature and the one that you should consult first when writing any research essay on literature.  If you do not find a citation to an article, book, or book chapter on literature here, you are unlikely to find it anywhere. 

No books will be available in the MLA database, only the information that you will need about books to find them in the Halle Catalogue or to get them through Interlibrary Loan (described below).  Likewise, full text of articles may not be available in the MLA database, only the references to them.  In that case, you will need to do one of the following:

1)      Look for a digital version of the article in another full-text database by searching for the journal title in the Electronic Periodicals Locator.  You are unlikely to find an article published before 1995 in full text, and even some recently published articles are only available in electronic versions on select occasions.  You can also use the “Find Text” button in the MLA and other databases, but sometimes the article is still available even when the Find Text function cannot locate it.

2)      If a digital version of the article is not available, search for the journal title in the regular Halle Catalogue, making sure that the library owns the journal and has the particular volume of the journal that you need.  If Halle does own that volume, you will find it on the second floor of the library where the journals are arranged alphabetically.  Search first for the journal title, then for the number of the volume in which the article is located, and finally for the article itself by page number.

3)      If the library does not own the journal in which your article is located, do not give up: you can use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) acquire the article, and a copy of it will be sent to you from another library.  It may come directly through your email account, or it may be waiting at the Circulation Desk for you to pick up.

Other Databases to Consult for Journal Articles:

Project Muse: An online collection of journals containing the full-text articles in the humanities and social sciences.  An excellent resource for the most recently published articles, though it is not exhaustive.  You could start your research here because of the quality, but do not give up if you do not find anything related to your topic.  Simply go to the MLA database and use the process described above.

JSTOR: Full-text scholarly articles from a range of disciplines.  An excellent resource for less recent articles and articles from a range of disciplines, JSTOR has many more articles than other databases because it reaches further back in time.  It also has all of the articles published in the PMLA, the journal published by the MLA and the most important journal in the field of literature.

InfoTrac: This multidisciplinary database includes articles from refereed academic journals, as well as from magazines and newspapers.  It has a great deal of non-peer-reviewed journals (e.g. Time-like magazines geared to popular audiences rather than to scholars), but it does have some scholarly articles as well.

Other Useful Databases:

Google Scholar: Citations to or full-text versions of papers, theses, books, and indeed everything else typically found in book form in a library.  While in some cases Google has been permitted to display the full text of scholarly materials, in many more cases, only a description of those materials is available. The Halle Catalogue or Interlibrary Loan can provide access to the materials not directly accessible in the database.

Literature Resource Center: Full-text biographical, bibliographical, and contextual information on literature with digital versions of Contemporary Authors, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Contemporary Literary Criticism, and Encyclopedia of Literature including over 10,000 entries for authors, works, literary and critical terms, mythological figures, fictional characters, and literary movements.  Only a few scholarly articles are available in this database, but it is still an excellent reference source.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED): This is the best, most comprehensive, and most famous dictionary of the English language, which not only gives the meanings of words, but also traces how those meanings have changed over time.  The OED is an excellent dictionary to consult for literature papers, especially those covering earlier periods when words may have different meaning than they do now.

Times Literary Supplement: No articles are available in this database, but it is an excellent source for reviews of books (literature and criticism alike).

WorldCat: This database will give you references to every book owned by every library around the world (and many videos or audio materials as well).  It is useful for finding books that the Halle library may not own, but that can be acquired from other libraries elsewhere.  If a professor refers you to a book, but you cannot find it in the Halle catalogue, look here for more information about book and then make an Interlibrary Loan request to have it sent to you.