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To aid in the planning of your paper you may want to get some background information. Consult online encyclopedias, directories or biographical series to get a general idea of the culture, historical context and biographical information about those people related to your studies:
- Dictionary of Literary Biography is an excellent place to find background information about authors.
- Literature Criticism Online provides a collection of critical essays on various authors and works from 1400-present. This database includes the series Children's Literature Review.
Before you search
Before searching the library catalogue or databases, think about your topic. Break down your topic into concepts or keywords. Think of synonyms for each keyword or concept. Keep your mind open to new or alternative words that describe your topic.
Identifying search terms
To identify which terms you should use to search for books and articles, write down the proposed title of your project (or an imaginary title of an ideal article) and underline the important/meaningful words, e.g.:
- Understanding the adult reader's response to children's literature
- Use the underlined words and think of any variations, synonyms or related terms.
The simple 'connectors' AND and OR allow you to combine terms to broaden or narrow your searches.
- Combining with AND narrows your search, and it requires all terms to appear in each search result
e.g. adult reader AND children's literature
- Combining with OR broadens your search, and it requires any term to appear in each search result (use this for combining synonyms)
e.g. adult reader AND (children's literature OR young adult literature)
Searching in the Library Catalogue
Use the Library Catalogue to find books & e-books. These 3 steps can help you explore:
- Do a keyword search.
- Select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs.
- Use the Subject Headings for that book to find similar materials.
Subject headings are terms that have been assigned to each book. They are extremely useful for locating books on the same subject regardless of the terminology used by the author. Using subject headings in your search can lead to more accurate results but it's almost always easier to start with keyword searching first.
Searching in databases
Use databases to find articles. You may wish to explore the following databases:
MLA International Bibliography is the best database for research on literary topics. All of the articles in this database are scholarly (or peer reviewed) articles.
- Use the Thesaurus (to browse subject terms, such as social class, social status, etc.).
- Use the tab Names as Subjects (to browse authors' names, such as Fielding or Burney).
- Click on the tab More/Indexes to select a Primary Subject Work (such as Evelina, Tom Jones, etc.).
- Literature Online is a searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, 328 full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources.
- Education Source is our most comprehensive Education database.
- Google Scholar – remember to access it through the Library homepage to get maximum results.
- See the Books + articles tab for more databases and key journals you could search.