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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

English 436/536: Chaucer

Subject Expert

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Ielleen Miller
Text or phone me at 509.818.0559
Office Hours:Wednesdays 9-11am, or by appointment - use Schedule Research Consultation link above.
Need to meet during the evening or weekend? Please text or email me to schedule.

Office: JFK Library M04C (just ask for me at the JFK Library Reference Desk)

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Database Recommendations

I have 4 article database suggestions for you, because each has its strengths and weaknesses.


  • The most comprehensive database for literary criticism. Goes back to 1923 and covers thousands of journals, magazines, and newsletters, as well as books, book chapters, and dissertations.
  • Works great when searching for an author or specific work.


  • Since it started back in the print days, they did not include abstracts of the works. (Instead they arranged results by country and time period, listing all the relevant literature produced in a year or in a quarter.) They haven't gone back to include abstracts, so you are keyword searching the title of the article and subject terms. The subject terms are sometimes very broad or very specific. 
  • It can be frustrating to search by theme, because the subject terms for those aren't consistently used.


  • My approach is to start the search by author and/or work (and the most common term for the issue I want to analyze if I get too many just by work), then under Subjects click Show More to see all the subject terms that appear in the results.
  • Narrow to any of them that look relevant by clicking on the corresponding box, then click Apply. (This is the equivalent of an OR for each subject.)
    • Example: If you search chaucer AND miller's tale, there are 313 results. If you want to focus on love, you'll see the subjects courtly love, love, sex, sexuality, desire, etc. That gets you down to 16 results.
    • Example: If you are looking for sources that explicitly use a particular literary theory, it is common or MLA to call that "X approach" in the subject field, e.g. feminist approach, ecocritical approach. But there are lots of exceptions! Queer theory is much more common than queer approach. Thus for feminist theory, I would try feminist approach OR feminism.
  • There's not a lot of full text within the database itself. Use the Check for Full Text button to find the full text in another database, or to request by Interlibrary Loan.


  • JSTOR offers full-text articles of hundreds of core literature journals, from the first issue up to around 3 to 5-years ago. 
  • You are keyword searching the entire article, so you can be quite specific in what you are looking for.


  • Not the best resource for finding recent articles, and if you search terms are too vague, you'll get too many results.
  • Despite getting a lot of results, there aren't thousands of journals represented, like there are in MLA International Bibliography.
  • Watch the date of the article! How scholars interpret works changes over time.


  • Unless you want to read book reviews for suggestions on relevant books, limit your search results to Articles. That will remove the book reviews.
  • I would use the relevance results as is - JSTOR's idea of "relevance" is a simple how often your search terms appear. So after the first 20 or so results, you'll notice the results aren't relevant because your search terms only once or twice.


  • You can keyword search the entire articles and scholarly books, similar to JSTOR. 
  • The articles and books are from major university presses and non-profit societies, up to the latest issues.
  • The focus is humanities and social sciences disciplines, not the sciences.


  • Just like JSTOR, if your search terms aren't specific, you'll get too many results.


  • Keyword search as if it were JSTOR. You can be very specific, since you are searching the entire text, not a summary.
  • If the article is not available full text, use the Check for Full Text link to see if it's in another database, or you can interlibrary loan it.


  • Knows about millions of articles. Default is to show you only the ones we should have full text.
  • Easiest way to search all of our databases at once.


  • Can be frustrating when using the subject limiters on the left side to narrow the results.
  • Unclear sometimes why a particular result appears, since the search terms are not in the record.


  • Use specific keywords, since the database is so large.
  • Definitely limit to Peer-reviewed Journals on the left! (Gets rid of the magazines, but also the books. You ought to search for books and articles separately, because the subject tags are different for each format.)
  • If you want to expand your results, click the Include results with no full text at the top left. You'll just have to interlibrary loan those articles.

Detailed Advice for Searching MLA International Bibliography

Basic Search Tips for Any Library Database

  • Exact phrases "in quotes" -- “short stories”
  • Use or for synonyms if you want either term to be present -- theme or motif
  • Use and if you want all of the terms to be present -- "native american" and environment
  • Use an * on the root form of a word to find any version of the root word with different endings -- postmodern* to find postmodern or postmodernism

Searching MLA International Bibliography

MLA is the most comprehensive database for literary criticism. It indexes over 3,000 journals, as well as books, book chapters, and dissertations, back to 1923. However, it can be somewhat frustrating to search because the vast majority of the time, there is no abstract or summary of the work. You are keyword searching the title of the article/book and subject headings. (And for older articles and books, the subject headings are quite broad and not very helpful.)

Type in your search terms.

  • If you are looking for criticism of a particular short story, type in the name of the short story "in quotes" and the last name of the author.
    • If this does not work, then type in the name of the author and "short stories"
  • If you are looking for criticism on a particular theme or motif, think of all the synonyms for the motif, such as landscape or environment or pastoral
    • Put one concept per box, with an or in between synonyms.
    • Type in one term or a “simple phrase”. Do not type in a string of words or an entire sentence.

Narrowing Results

The database wants to help you narrow down. Note the various limiters on the left side:

  • by Source Type: academic journals (scholarly) vs. book articles (think book chapters) or books, etc.
  • by Subject -- NOTE: narrow by subject one at a time, rather than checking more than one!

Reviewing Your Results

Get more info: For more information about the article/book chapter/book, click on the hyperlinked title, or hover over the magnifying glass icon next to the title.

Re-sort the results: These results are by relevance, or which ones have our keywords the most frequently. You can change to by date if you wish.

Finding the Full Text of Articles

When you are searching in one of the library databases and the article in question isn't available full text right there, look for a link or button that says EWU - Check for Full Text. Click on the icon or link, and this will bring up a new window that looks similar to the one below:

screenshot of check for full text results

Step 1: If the article is available online, it will say Fulltext available at the top. (It looks like a hyperlink, but it is a link to take you to the page you're already on.) Under View It you will see links to the databases that have the article. In the example above the article is available in JSTOR.

Step 2: If the article is not available full text, it will say Check availability. To see if we have it in print or microfilm, scroll down to Find in a Library. If we do have at least one issue of the source, it will give you the holdings record for that source (date range held, location, and call number). In this case, we have print copies of the journal from 2000-current.

Step 3: If the article is not available full text, and we do not have it in print/microfilm, go back to the View It part and click the link Request this article using Interlibrary Loan (in the middle under Can't find it? -- see image above). You will need to log in using your NetID/SSO. Verify that the fields were filled out correctly and click the red Submit Request button. Articles usually take around 3-5 days. You will be notified via your EWU email that the article is available for you to download. (Directions are in the email.) 

Finding the Entire Book

MLA will also give you results found in books. Right now, the Check for Full Text button is not working properly to locate the book. Just copy/paste the title of the book into the EWU Library Catalog.

Save Relevant Articles

When you find results you would like to examine further, click the link Add to Folder. Once you are finished, click Folder View in the gold Folder has items box on the right side of the screen. You can email all the results to yourself.

Browse & Find Books

Browse the Chaucer Section

Most of the books by or about Chaucer are on the Upper Level, PR1851-1951.

But expanding your search to include all of the Summit Libraries will offer a much larger number of choices.

Help with Searching EWU Library Catalog

What’s in the catalog?

  • All of EWU’s physical holdings, including books, videos, CDs, journals, and more.
  • All the physical holdings of all the Summit Libraries—over 9 million titles!
  • Citations for millions of articles.

How do I search the catalog? | How do I locate an item? | I can't find the specific book or video I want. 

How do I search the catalog?

Know the title or author?

If you know the exact title of the item, type in the title "in quotes" and the last name of the author (if known).

screenshot of search for Pride and Prejudice by AustenOr

Click Browse in the top bar and type in the title and/or author. (Note: The Browse function only works for EWU holdings of books or videos, not for titles held by other libraries.)

Find Books on an Author, Work, Theory, or Motif

Type in your keywords. For one or more terms, type the keywords as you would in Google, no AND necessary, e.g. poe gothic.

  • Put exact phrases in quotes, e.g. "new historicism".
  • To find variations on a word, type the stem of the word followed by *, e.g. femin* to find feminism, feminist, etc.
  • If you want to look for either word/phrase, the Boolean operator OR must be in ALLCAPS and in parentheses, e.g. (american OR "united states").

I would suggest using the Advanced Search if you have a fairly complex search. See below.

screen shot of advanced search in EWU Library Catalog

Refining Your Search

example of limiting to both eBooks and Print Books formatsBecause the EWU Library Catalog has records for all types of resources, you will very likely need to limit your search results. Note all the limiters on the left side, as well as some quick limiters at the top.

  • Click on the limiter to narrow by the one limiter.
  • You can narrow to more than one in the category by clicking the corresponding boxes on the left of the limiter (such as limiting by Format to both Print Books and eBooks). Just hover over the limiter to see the box.
  • You can exclude particular limiters by clicking the icon on the right of the limiter. Just hover over the limiter to see this icon.   icon of a checkmark crossed out

Useful limiters:

  • Availability -- Available in the Library -- this will quickly show you the books and videos we have on the shelves in the library
  • Availability -- Full Text Online -- this will limit to the articles and eBooks available
  • Format -- limit to books, audio visual (for DVDs, CDs, etc.)
  • Date -- click on the From/To dates to update, and click Refine
  • Physical Location -- easiest way to limit to a particular collection, such as the Curriculum Center or Reference
  • Subject Terms -- because the subject terms given to articles and books are can be different, it is best to narrow by Format first, then Subject Term.

Mark Your Records

See the push pin icon on the far right (labeled "Keep this item" if you hover over it)? 

screenshot of a brief record in the EWU Library Catalog

Click it and it will change the push pin icon and highlight the brief record yellow. You have marked a record temporarily. Click the push pin icon in the top right corner to view your marked records.

  • Note: To permanently mark a record, you need to be logged in. Click the Sign In tab in the top right corner.

How do I locate an item?

The last line of the brief record describes where the item is located.example of results list for the search poe gothic in the EWU Library Catalog

If the wording is green, that means it is readily available, either online or physically on our shelves at the JFK Library in Cheney or Spokane Academic Library.

  • For physical items, note the location: library (Cheney or Spokane), floor, and call number.
  • For online items: click the green wording (Full text available, Online access, etc.) to link out to the item. 

If the wording is yellow, that means you'll have to request it. Click Check request options - held by Summit libraries. You must be logged in to request the item -- you'll be prompted to if you aren't already.

Once you are logged in, click the link Place Summit request (4-8 days). The form will ask you:

  • Volume number (optional) -- only matters if it is a multi-volume set and you only want one volume
  • Pick up/delivery location (required) -- which library do you want the item delivered to -- the default is Cheney
  • Comment (optional)

​Click REQUEST. You will be notified via your EWU email address when the item is ready to be picked up. 

If the wording is gray, that means either:

  • The EWU copy of the item is checked out. You will have to request it from a Summit library, or via Interlibrary Loan if there is no other copy in Summit.
  • The article is not available online. It may be in a physical copy of the source (and it will display the date range held and call number), or you will have to request it via Interlibrary Loan.

I can't find the specific book or video I want.

While the EWU Library Catalog has millions of records, it only will search through the holdings of the 39 Summit libraries. If you can't find a specific book, video, CD, etc., then go to the EWU WorldCat Catalog and re-do your search. WorldCat has records from thousands of libraries worldwide. You may request the item via Interlibrary Loan.