COM LIT R1B: Past and Present

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 this 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 in this tab.

  3. Review suggested resources section of this tab.

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

    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 with chapters on your topic
  • to find periodicals you've already identified as having articles on your topic

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, philosophy, gender and women's studies, etc.

    for the subject of literature...

    MLA is a major database for locating literary analysis/criticism
    • Modern Language Association's international bibliography
    • tabbed setup lets you view results by type of publication
    • 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
    JSTOR is one recommended database
    • scholarly journals
    • full text resource
    • use advanced search mode (to narrow to specific discipline, and/or limit your search)

    Academic Search Complete is one recommended resource
    • popular and scholarly content (includes magazine/news content)
    • can limit to scholarly results
    • 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]
Read more

Tips for searching a database

  • search tips for library databases
    • you may also wish to limit your search by language

  • searching the library catalog

    • 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, etc.
      • 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 are often not what you would expect. Examine relevant results to discover how your topic, time period, location, people, etc., is defined subject-wise. Once you know, you can use that terminology to search for other materials on a topic.  

      • to find literary analysis, try adding the term criticism to a 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*
        william shakespeare and criticism
        hamlet and criticism
        stanley kubrick and criticism
        eugene o'neill and biography

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

Some 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 be 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 for examples).

  • In addition to looking for articles targeting a topic, if books have been written about your author's work, examining the table of contents and indexes of promising ones 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 database results focus upon your author's influence on later works of literature, by other authors. When this is the case, and, if it is not what you want, books can provide a way to get at literary analysis focusing more directly on your author & their work.

  • If the overall goal is to find analysis of an author's ideas and influence, and he/she is a philosopher, theologian, psychologist -- or the subject of inquiry in a discipline besides literature -- you may also wish to explore the recommended databases for that subject. 

    note: whether this approach is helpful, depends on your specific needs and the kind of analysis you seek -- an article on Camus in a philosophy journal will use a different lens to examine his work than that used by a literary journal. 
Last Update: January 05, 2012 13:25