COM LIT R1B: Family Drama

How to use this tab

This course guide is created as a teaching tool and designed to be read as a unit. Doing so will provide the context for selecting the "right" resource and the techniques for manipulating it -- knowledge and skills that will support immediate and future research needs.

The notes in the putting it all together tab contain suggestions about how to proceed with research, based on your assignment. These suggestions build upon, and presume familiarity with, the general concepts addressed in the other tabbed sections of this course guide.

A suggested research trajectory

  1. Review the information in the resources tab.  Make sure you understand how the identified resources differ in the types of information and/or materials they provide.

  2. Review tips for finding literary analysis and historical resources (if desired) in this tab.

  3. Review suggested resources section of this tab.

  4. Select a resource whose content matches the kind of materials you are seeking to find and whose disciplinary focus maps to your topic (i.e. publications in that field are likely to be writing about it).

    Or... choose a General (interdisciplinary) database.

  5. Search it to see what's been written about your topic -- or what issues others are writing about in regards to a topic/author/work that might help you refine your focus.
    • see search tips section of this tab for help (as needed)

  6. Examine promising results.
    • remember to note the information you'll need if you end up citing 'em

Suggested resources


  • to find books on your topic
  • to find periodicals you've already identified as having articles on your topic
  • to find encyclopedias for background information

Article databases (by SUBJECT)

  • to identify article and essay content on your topic
  • to identify current research
  • to identify research focused on an aspect of a topic
  • to search for publications from a specific discipline
    • literature, African American studies, history, gender and women's studies, etc.
  • MLA is a recommended database for finding literary analysis/criticism
    • also good for finding scholarly analysis of films
    • tabbed setup lets you review results by type of publication
    • can limit by language
    • use UC-eLinks to locate result text
  • America: History and life (US, Canadian history)  and Historical Abstracts (rest of the world) are recomended databases for historical research
    • can limit to results that focus on a specific historical time period
    • can refine search to specific types of publications
    • can limit by language
    • use UC-eLinks to locate result text

Article databases (the GENERAL category)

  • interdisciplinary databases
  • often have popular sources (magazine & news) as well scholarly ones
  • Academic Search Complete is one recommended resource
    • popular and scholarly content (good for popular culture topics, as has magazine/news content)
    • some results available online
    • has UC-eLinks feature

  • Google Scholar is one recommended resource
    • strength is scholarly journal literature
    • use UC-eLinks to get full text
    • you must enable UC-eLinks to display in Google Scholar [set via Options gear > Scholar Preferences > Library links]

  • JSTOR is one recommended database
    • scholarly journals
    • full text resource
    • use advanced search mode (to narrow to specific discipline. and/or limit your search)

Subject specific encyclopedias

  • to get background on a topic | biographical information on practitioner in field
  • Link path  = Library homepage > Electronic Resources > Subjects A-Z > your subject > see left sidebar menu for links to types of resources for chosen subject

    ...Subjects A-Z > Literature > sidebar menu to encyclopedias >

        Literature Resource Center
    • good for brief biography of literary authors
    • use Person Search
    • see biographies tab in search results
    • a literature criticism tab included for some authors (but has limited content)
Read more

Tips for searching a database

  • search tips for library databases (recommended)
    • additional tip, you may wish to limit by language

  • catalog search tips

    • finding materials about a topic...

      • search 2 or 3 terms representing key concepts of your focus
      • there isn't a search that finds everything: try different combinations of terms, synonyms, related terms
      • look at the records of relevant results -- do their subjects suggest other search terms?

        important:  subject terms are defined by the Library of Congress, and not always what you would expect. Examine relevant results to discover how your topic, time period, location, people, etc. are defined subject-wise. Once you know this, you can use that terminology to search for other materials.  

      • to find literary analysis, try adding the term criticism to your search for materials about an author or literary movement (see example, below)
      • try adding terms for specific types of materials -- encyclopedias, biographies -- to your search, to locate those types of resources (see example, below)

        sample keyword searches...

        obsessive-compulsive disorder
        compulsive behavior

        france and history and class
        elizabethan and society
        elizabethan* and custom*
        octavia butler and criticism
        kubrick and criticism
        eugene o'neill and biography

    • author search (for a person) - finds books by, interviews with, correspondence...
      [use specified syntax last name, first name]
    • limit by language - use modify search button
    • limit by material type - change default search of Entire Collection
      to seach by type -- Journals/Magazines/Newspapers, Films/Videos...
    • search too broad ? -- use Modify button for limits
Read more

Extra tips for finding literary analysis

  • Using an appropriate article database is a must for locating articles or chapters on a topic:

    • Very specific searches (specific focus about a specific character in a specific work) may not net the desired results. It's always worth trying for a direct bullseye, but sometimes you need to adjust your aim.

    • Search for analysis about the book, play, etc., being written about.  You'll see what others are focusing on.  You may find they use other terms for your focus that can searched to increase your result pool.

    • Search for analysis about the author of the book, play, etc., being written about.  Your focus may be a thematic/technical element that shows up repeatedly in their work.  Materials that focus on authorial concerns may include information about your work, or be relevant to your analysis of it.

  • When using the library catalog, try adding the term criticism to searches for material about an author, literary movement, or time period (see catalog search tips section of this tab for examples).

  • In addition to article databases, if books have been written about your author's work, examining the table of contents and indexes of promising titles may help isolate chapters of relevance.

    hint: when an author is well known and been written about for a long  time, you may find many article results (from article databases) focus upon their influence on later works of literature. When this is the case, and, if it is not what you want, books can provide a way to get at literary analysis focusing on your author & their work.

Extra tips for finding historical background

  • Not already knowldegeable about the time period, social or cultural background?  Consider starting with an encyclopedia entry.

  • Articles tend to focus on specific aspects of a specific topic. If you are looking for a broad overview of a historical time or social situation, books might be the ticket:

    • their table of contents and indexes will help you isolate the parts of interest to you
    • OskiCat will help you locate what's at UCB
    • Review the catalog search tips (particularly the information about discovering assigned subjects terms)

  • Some article databases contain results for chapters in books and/or books, in addition to articles (America:History & Life and Historical Abstracts are two such examples). Use the UC-eLinks feature to see if the Library has a copy of the result sought.
Last Update: January 05, 2012 13:25