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ENGL 330: Studies in Victorian Literature

This guide has been designed as a starting point for the research that you will need to to research for English 330.

If you need help, please contact Ivana Niseteo, Liaison Librarian for English, French, French Programs (FASS), Humanities, Linguistics, and World Literature at 778.782.6838 or or Ask a librarian.

Using the library website
Background information
Using the library catalogue
Databases: MLA and beyond
Primary sources
Hints and tips

Using the library website

Research Guides - Use these when you are not sure where to start! Librarians have put together comprehensive guides on every subject taught at SFU to assist students in their research.
Library Catalogue - Remember these steps: 1) Do a keyword search 2) Select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs 3) Use the subject headings for that book to find similar materials.
Journal Articles and Databases - This is where you go to find articles. Use the subject listings if you aren't sure which database to use.
Ask A Librarian - Librarians generally respond within 24 hours to email questions from students. You can also use our AskAway live chat assistance service.

Background information

To aid in the planning of your paper you may want to get some background information. You may want to consult encyclopedias, directories or biographical series to get general idea of the culture, historical context and biographical information about those people related to your studies of Tennyson.
  • Oxford dictionary of national biography [online] - An illustrated collection of biographies of the men and women who shaped all aspects of the history of the British Isles and beyond, from the earliest times to the year 2005. Does not include people who are still living.
  • Dictionary of literary biography [online] | [print] - An excellent place to find background information about authors.
  • Literature criticism online [online] - Provides a collection of critical essays on various authors and works from 1400-present.
  • Biographical dictionary of literary influences: the nineteenth century, 1800-1914 [print]
  • The Encyclopedia of the Victorian world : a reader's companion to the people, places, events, and everyday life of the Victorian era [print]
  • A companion to Victorian literature & culture [print]

Using the library catalogue

Use the Library Library Catalogue to find books owned by SFU Library. You may also want to used the Advanced keyword search as you can practice more targeted searches.

Before searching the 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. Create search strings that can either broaden (using OR) or narrow (using AND) your topic.

Here is an example of a search string using BOOLEAN operators (AND and OR) to get the best results. My topic is

  • Lord Byron:  The Rise of the Celebrity

Identify the key words and think of any variations, synonyms or related terms. (e.g. expansion, imperialism, empire)

Combining terms

The simple terms and and or allow you to combine terms to broaden or narrow your searches.

  • Broaden: combining with or requires ANY term to be found in each search result (use this for finding synonyms)

                 e.g.  (class OR society OR social relations)

  • Narrow: 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. Bronte AND (class OR society OR social relations)


Use the Library Catalogue to find books and articles owned by SFU Library. Try using Advanced keyword searching.  Click here for searching tips and guidance on using the library catalogue. If you are still having trouble finding relevant results Ask a Librarian for help!

Remember three steps: 1 ) Use keyword search 2) Select a book from the list that appears to meet your needs 3) Use the subject headings for that books 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.

Advanced Keyword Searching

Sometimes it can help to direct the computer on where to look for your key words. For example, the subject heading Classical Literature -- History and Criticism -- Theory Etc may include a lot of irrelevant results. To narrow those results to ones that deal specifically with Bakhtin or with the notion of Carnival, try combining those key words with your subject heading by using the Advanced Keyword search screen. If you prefer to use the simple search box, use these commands in front of your search terms:

s: searches the subject field

a: searches the author field

An example of this search would be s:Social classes in literature. AND Bronte

Databases: MLA and beyond

Every database is slightly different, you improve as a researcher each time you go outside of your safety zone. For example you may want to try databases in other subjects. Look at the databases by subject area in the Journal articles and databases and see if there might be something that is helpful for your paper. Also remember not to limit yourself to only fulltext databases, most of the databases at SFU will give you the option to find the article either in print in the Library or in another electronic database. Click on "Where Can I Get This?"

Please note that if an article is not available at SFU you can get it through Interlibrary Loans. This service is quick.

  • MLA is the primary source for English Literature research. All articles in this database are scholarly.
  • Project MUSE Search - A searchable, online, full-text collection of over 110 humanities and social science journals. Strong in Literature.
  • Humanities and Social Science Index is a good place to begin to search a wide range of subjects within the areas of Humanities and Social Sciences. 
  • JSTOR Note that this database defaults to a basic search. There is also an advanced search option to the right of the basic box. I would suggest using this or if you are building long search strings it may be helpful to use the expert search. Note that JSTOR has a 2-5 year embargo on its articles so not the database to use if you are looking for the latest and most current information.
  • Bibliography of British & Irish History  This bibliography is an authoritative guide to what has been written about British and Irish history from the Roman period to the present day.  Includes citations to books, articles in books and articles in journals.
  • You may want to try Google Scholar but remember to access it through the Library homepage to get maximum results.

Using the Thesaurus or Index within a Database

One way to access the subject headings in a database is to examine which ones are attached to the results of your keyword search (found listed either along the right or left hand side of the screen, or within the information record for a particular article).  However, if you want to check to see is a term is treated as a subject heading or a descriptor before you search, look for the thesaurus or index tool within the database (usually found above the search boxes).  Type your term into the thesaurus search box to see if it appears within the alphabetical listing of all the subject headings used in the database.  If your term appears you can change the default setting on the main search boxes to look in the subject/descriptor field rather than in the whole record.  This will help to return more relevant results than simple keyword searching.

Primary Resources

The SFU Library has several databases that provide access, either in the form of an index or full text, to various 19th century resources. 


Use these resources to search for primary resources published during the 19th century.  Once you have found some relevant titles, search the SFU Library catalogue to see if we hold a copy of the title.  Remember, many sources are reprinted at later dates, so if the date in the catalogue doesn't match the original year of publication, it is likely a reprint.  You can also use our interlibrary loan service to order a copy of anything we do not own.

Eight Centuries
An index to Nineteenth Century periodicals, books, newspapers and government documents.

Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalogue
Provides an exhaustive bibliography of over 1.2 million records for the 19th-century holdings of eight of the world's top research libraries. It covers virtually all printed materials published in the U.S. and the British Empire from 1801 to 1919.

Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals - Bennett Reference Index [print]
Covers literature, religion, politics, social science, political economy, women's writing, archaeology, science and the arts. Includes 45 of the most important monthly and quarterly Victorian periodicals, most of which are not indexed in any other bibliographic reference work.

Digitized Sources

Gale NewsVault
Provides access to a variety of UK and US newspapers and periodicals for over 400 years.  Major sources included in this search:  Times of London, Ilustrated London News, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, 19th Century UK Periodicals

British Periodicals
British Periodicals traces the development and growth of the periodical press in Britain from its origins in the seventeenth century through to the Victorian 'age of periodicals' and beyond. On completion this unique digital archive will consist of more than 460 periodical runs published from the 1680s to the 1930s, comprising six million keyword-searchable pages and forming an unrivaled record of more than two centuries of British history and culture.  A wide array of different types of periodical are represented, from magisterial quarterlies and scholarly and professional organs through to coterie art periodicals, penny weeklies and illustrated family magazines.

Periodicals Archive Online
An online archive of digitized, full-image journal articles and offers unprecedented access to international, scholarly literature in the humanities and social sciences disciplines from 1802 to 1995. 

John Johnson Collection: an Archive of Printed Ephemera 
Access to 36,000 items drawn from the Bodleian's John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera.  This collection offers unique insights into the changing nature of everyday life in Britain in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Categories include Nineteenth-Century Entertainment, the Booktrade, Popular Prints, Crimes, Murders and Executions, and Advertising.

InteLex Past Masters
InteLex Past Masters is comprised of 117 full-text humanities databases that make available cohesive collections of editions, in both original language and in English translation, of seminal figures in the humanities and social sciences. 

Carlyle Letters
Here you will find a perspective on the 19th century like no other, through the words of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. Browse over 10,000 of their collected letters by date, by recipient, by subject, and by volume. We invite you to explore a correspondence that features some of the most influential artistic, philosophic, and literary personalities of the day.

British Literary Manuscripts: Part 1 c.1660 to 1900
This extensive digital archive, comprising more than 400,000 manuscript pages, includes complete facsimile copies of poems, plays, essays, novels, diaries, journals, correspondence and other manuscripts from the Restoration through the Victorian era. The collection provides an intimate look into the lives and works of major literary figures and allows for unique insights into the history, culture and context surrounding more than two centuries of British literary achievement.

Internet Archive
Contains links to digitized books around the world, as well as other types of media.  If SFU does not have a particular source listed in the indexes, you may also search here to see if a digital version is available.

Google Books
Also provides access to many digitized 19th century books, and some issues of paricular periodicals.

Hints and tips

Remember to keep track of every item you consult to avoid plagiarism.  Check the MLA guide on the Library homepage for assistance using MLA style.

You may also want to explore citation or reference management tools to help you keep track of your sources while you work and store your references for future use and reuse.

If SFU does not have a copy of the article or book you need, you can use SFU's FREE Inter-library loan service to obtain a copy from another institution.

Don't forget: you can always Ask a Librarian for help.

Use a variety of different formats: print sources, electronic sources. You may even wish to check out a few good websites for background information:

  • Voice of the Shuttle
  • Victoria Research Web.  Associated with the Victoria electronic discussion list. Coverage includes archives, libraries, journals, discussion lists, and other web resources.
  • Victorian Web Sites.  Mitsuharu Matsuoka / Nagoya University. An A-Z list of almost 300 web sites.
  • The Victorian Web  A hypertext containing a great deal of material on Victorian literature, history and society.
  • Victorian Studies Bibliography   Lists important articles, books and reviews dealing with the Victorian period. The bibliography is connected to the journal Victorian Studies at the University of Indiana.
  • NINES Project - NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship) is a scholarly organization devoted to forging links between the material archive of the nineteenth century and the digital research environment of the twenty-first.  Allows you to search journal articles, scholarly projects, online archives and other material devoted to the nineteenth century.
  • NOBL-19 -  A website which reviews new books on English and American literature of the nineteenth century (within 90 days of publication).