English Literature information resources: Books & articles

If you need help, please contact Ivana Niseteo, Liaison Librarian for English, French, French Programs (FASS), Humanities, Linguistics, and World Languages & Literatures at 778.782.6838 or iniseteo@sfu.ca or Ask a librarian.

If you need help getting started, our Start Your Research Here guide provides a step by step explanation of the library research process and includes helpful tips and links to important information resources.

The Library website - a few pointers

  • Use Library Search to find guides, policies, FAQs, library blogs, digitized collections, books, articles, and more. It's like the Google of the Library website, so you will get a large number of hits. This is the easiest way to find out if the Library has a particular title.
  • Use Catalogue Search as a discovery tool to do research on your topic and find books, e-books, media, maps and articles that are available through the Library's database subscriptions.
  • Use Article Databases to find journal or newspaper articles, and book reviews.  Access databases by Subject if you are not sure which one to use.

Get started

Before you start searching in the Library Catalogue or article databases, think about your topic. Break it down into concepts or keywords. Think of synonyms and alternative terms for each keyword or concept.  Combine your terms and create search strings that can either broaden (using OR) or narrow (using AND) your topic.

Sample topic: Subjectivity in Shakespeare's Sonnets

  • Think of any synonyms, variations, or related terms. (e.g. subjectivity, self, individualism, persona, etc.)
  • Narrow your topic: combining with AND requires ALL terms to be found in each search result (use this for finding two or more concepts in the same source), e.g.
    • Shakespeare AND sonnets AND subjectivity
  • Broaden your topic: combining with OR requires ANY term to be found in each search result (use this for finding synonyms), e.g.
    • subjectivity OR self OR difference
  • If needed, use an asterisk to retrieve variations of the same word, e.g.
    • subject* will retrieve 'subjectivity' and 'subjectiveness'; sonnet* will find 'sonnets' as well.
  • Another option is to combine your terms, creating a string: 
    • Shakespeare AND sonnet* AND (subjectivism OR self OR difference)


Use keyword search in the Library Catalogue to find books and e-books on your topic.  If you are in the Basic Mode, enter your keywords and then take advantage of the numerous facets located on the left-hand side to limit your search by type of material, date, language, etc.  If you are in the Advanced Mode, you can first select the fields and types of material and then enter your keywords.

Discover useful Subject Headings, located in book records, and click on them to find books on the same topic. They look like this:

  • Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. -- Poetic works.
  • Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Sonnets.
  • Sonnets, English -- History and criticism.
  • Subjectivity in literature.

Subject headings are standard 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 start with keyword search first.

For more tips and tricks on searching within the Catalogue, please check our Library Catalog search guide for help.

E-book collections

The following are several e-book collections that are strong in the area of English Literature:

Journal articles

Journal articles can be found in the Library catalogue, or through a search of a subject-specific database, or by searching a particular e-journal. There are many databases relevant to English literature, but depending on your research topic, you may also be interested in exploring the databases for History, Sociology, Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies, Children's Literature, or Philosophy

Not all articles provided by a database are available full-test, so use the "Get@SFU" link, which is available in all our databases, to see the options of getting the article you need. If the SFU Library cannot provide access, fill out an Interlibrary loan (ILL) form to borrow it from another library.

​What does peer-reviewed mean? 

A journal is refereed or peer-reviewed if its articles have been evaluated by experts before publication. The experts advise the journal's editor for or against publication of the articles. Peer review ensures that the research described in a journal's articles is sound and of high quality. Many databases have an option to limit to peer-reviewed or scholarly articles on the main search page (usually it is a box that you need to check mark).

Check out the What is a scholarly (or peer-reviewed) journal? for more information and a set of evaluation criteria.

Key Databases

  • MLA International Bibliography
    • Contains citations to scholarly literature in literature, literary theory & criticism, dramatic arts, linguistics, modern languages, folklore, as well as historical aspects of printing and publishing, rhetoric and composition and the theory and practice of teaching language and literature.
  • Literature Online
    • More than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, in full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources.
  • Project MUSE Search
    • A full-text collection of humanities and social science journals. Strong in Literature.
    • Full-text access to the backfiles of Humanities and Social Science Journals; Good English Literature content. Note content in JSTOR is 3-5 years old.
  • Gale Literary Source
    • Aggregates several literary databases for biographical and critical essays about the worlds most influential literary figures; literary commentary (popular and scholarly) from 1400 present; biographical information about children's and young adult authors and illustrators.
  • CBCA Complete 
    • Provides comprehensive coverage of Canadian topics, including business, politics, literature, history and news events. References both popular and scholarly material.
  • Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance
    • Covers the time period 400-1700. Medieval and renaissance journal titles. It also indexes books.
  • International Medieval Bibliography
    • Provides a comprehensive, current bibliography of articles in journals and miscellany volumes (conference proceedings, essay collections or Festschriften) worldwide. 

These databases cover the major areas of English Literature research, however, there are more databases specific to geographic regions, time periods or relevant to a specific themes/topics.