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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

English 345: British Literature I, Beginnings Through 18th Century

Database Recommendations

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

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.)
    • 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.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • 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:

  • 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.

How Do I Know the Source is Scholarly

The library databases help you identify where the article is coming from. And the limiter to scholarly, peer-reviewed journals is prominent in virtually all of our article databases.

  • In the EBSCOhost databases such as MLA International Bibliography,  it will label scholarly, peer-reviewed journals as Academic Journals, as opposed to “Periodicals.”
  • In the EWU Library Catalog, use the limiter Peer-reviewed Journals on the left.
  • Both JSTOR and Project MUSE only have scholarly journals and books.

But it isn't as simple as clicking the limiter, because this limits the source to a scholarly journal, but not the individual articles. Scholarly journals occasionally publish news articles or editorials. Therefore you need to evaluate the specific article to see if it is scholarly.

1. Is there a bibliography or list of references?

Scholarly knowledge builds on what other scholars have stated. If the article does not include references to other scholars’ analysis, as well as listing the sources the author(s) used, it is not scholarly.

2. Is it lengthy?

While there are exceptions, most scholarly articles are quite lengthy -- 10 to 30 pages long. If you find a short article in a scholarly journal, it’s likely a book review or some short editorial - not what you are looking for as a scholarly source. (Though the book review may be useful to determine if a particular book is relevant and worth perusing.)

3. Is the article an in-depth analysis of the work(s)?

As you become more familiar with college-level research, you will soon learn to spot scholarly articles by the abstracts or summaries very, very quickly! Even the title of the article usually clues you in that it is a detailed critique of X.

 

Searching Article Databases

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 this icon Check for Full Text iconor a hyperlink 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.