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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

English 344: Survey of American Lit II

Find Journal Articles

Help Searching Databases

Strengths, weaknesses, and search hints for the recommended databases.

Strengths:

  • 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.

Weaknesses:

  • 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.

Mechanics:

  • Limit your search results to Articles. That will remove the book reviews.
  • Scroll down and you'll see JOURNAL FILTER - NARROW BY DISCIPLINE AND/OR JOURNAL -- you can limit to just the 400+ Language & Literature journals.
  • 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.

Strengths:

  • 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.

Weaknesses:

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

Mechanics:

  • 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.

Strengths:

  • 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.
  • Very good tool for searching for articles about the author or specific work.

Weaknesses:

  • 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 or motif, because the subject terms for those aren't consistently used.

Mechanics:

  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Note that if we have the journal physically, do an Interlibrary Loan request as well. We have library staff scanning and delivering our articles from our print journal collection.

Strengths:

  • 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.

Weaknesses:

  • 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.

Mechanics:

  • 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.