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English Research Guide: Databases

This online guide contains helpful resources and tips to assist students taking English courses at LaGrange College with easier access to the library's materials.

Check These Out

The best databases to find literary criticism are:

1. MLA International Bibliography is the most comprehensive database for literature. It provides citations, and often full text, for articles in more than 4400 journals (from 1926 to the current year) and many essays in books.

2. JSTOR provides PDF full text for scholarly journals in many fields (including more than 100 literature journals) up to about five years ago.

3. Project Muse has full text for many scholarly journals, including literature journals, usually from about 1998 to the present.

JSTOR and Project Muse work differently from most databases, and are covered below.

MLA International Bibliography

To find articles on a short story (poem, play, etc.), it's usually best to start by using the formula "author AND title," for example:

shirley jackson AND the lottery

poe AND the raven

(Use the author's first name if the last name is common.)


See here for information on Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which will make your searches more efficient, for example:

gilman AND (yellow wallpaper OR yellow wall-paper)

(Note that a search for "The Yellow Wallpaper" won't retrieve "The Yellow Wall-Paper," and vice-versa.)


Truncation may also be useful:

james joyce AND ulysses AND symbol*

(symbol* will retrieve "symbolism," "symbol(s)," "symbolizes," etc.)

For more details on database searching, see this guide.

Evaluating Results

If your search retrieves too few or too many results, revise your search terms or consult a librarian.

Examine the results you get carefully.

1. Does the article look useful? (Is it relevant? Is it long enough? Is it in your preferred language?)

2. Click on the title for the full bibliographic record. Note the subject terms (and abstract, if any); these may help you find other good articles.

3. Is the citation for a journal article or a book article?

If it's an article from a book, use the onlline catalog to see if we have the book.

If the citation is for a journal article, but no full text is available in the database:

1. There may be full text in another database, usually indicated by "Full Text Finder" or "Linked Full Text."  Or you can try our "Journal Locator" database.

2. We may have the journal on the shelf. Check our Periodical Holdings or ask a librarian.

3. if we don't have the article, we can probably get it for you from another library on interlibrary loan. Email the reference librarian here. (Try to allow two weeks for this; sometimes we can get an article in 24 hours, sometimes it takes 10 days or more.)

JSTOR and Project Muse

JSTOR and Project Muse are full-text databases, so you'll be searching the full text of articles in them, rather than searching the title, subject terms, and abstract. This means you may retrieve articles in which your search term appears only once (though JSTOR does a good job of ranking by relevance).

To search in JSTOR (Project Muse works similarly):

1. Access JSTOR and click on "Advanced Search."

2. Type in your search terms. Use quotation marks for a phrase.

3. OPTIONAL - If you wish, limit your search to "Articles" (to avoid book reviews) or by discipline (e.g., "Language & Literature")

4. Click on "Article PDF" to access the article.

5. To locate the page(s) on which a search term will appear, use the "Find" box or "Ctrl-F."

Please ask the reference librarian if you have any questions, or use the "Ask-a-librarian" feature on the library's home page.

Reference & ILL Librarian

Arthur Robinson's picture
Arthur Robinson
Office 706-880-8289
Ref. Desk 706-880-8957
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