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English Literature Research Guide

Reference Works (Mostly Third Floor & Online)


Bibliographies list resources on a particular subject. MLA only indexes articles published in 1924 or later, though in some cases you may find articles as far back as 1900. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that every article on a subject is indexed in MLA. If you want to be comprehensive, it is a good idea to check print bibliographies. You can find the by searching the catalog for the author's name and the word “bibliographies”. Also, don't forget to check the bibliographies of articles you've already found for more interesting resources.

Bibliographies may be…

  • Lists of editions and works by an author, such as Richard Wright: A Primary Bibliography (Ref. Z8986.323 .D38 1982).
  • Lists of criticism and commentary on an author or work, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge: An Annotated Bibliography (Ref Z8182.H26) or Martin Chuzzlewit: An Annotated Bibliography (Ref. Z8230 .L69 1990).
  • Lists of works on a subject, such as Psychoanalysis, Psychology and Literature (Ref. Z6514 .P78 K53 1982).


Concordances list all occurrences of the words within a given text or set of texts, in alphabetical order. So, for instance, if you were interested in the use of electricity in Eliot's Middlemarch, you might look under the entry for “electric” to see where the word is used. This can be very useful for close textual analyses. Search for the author's name and the word “concordance” in the catalog, or just browse their section in the reference collection.

Concordances may be…

  • Online concordances. For examples, see this Hyper-Concordance, which covers many British and American works, especially Victorian ones, and this list of concordances to some works by the British Romantics.
  • Concordances to a single work, such as A Concordance to Herman Melville's Pierre (Ref. PS2384.P53 .W4 1985).
  • Concordances to an author, such as A Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare (Ref. PR2892 .S6).
  • Concordances to some related works by the same author, such as A Concordance to The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath (Ref. PS3566 .L27 Z459 1986).


Glossaries or specialized dictionaries give the definitions of words used in a literary context or in a particular work or works. These can be very helpful if the author is from a different time period and the meanings of words have changed, or if the words have a special meaning within the work of that author.

Glossaries may be…

  • General references to literary terminology, such as A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (Ref. PN41 .C83 1998) and online dictionaries available in the Gale Virtual Reference Library and Oxford Online Reference Premium.
  • Dictionaries covering an author's work, such as Lexicon to the Works of Milton (Ref. PR3580 .L7).
  • Dictionaries focused on a particular aspect of an author's work, such as A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake (Ref. PR4146 .A24 1988) or A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Semantic Wordplay (Ref. PR2997 .P8 W47 1998).

Guides to an Author or Work

The content of these guides varies widely, but they may include information on the author's historical context, summaries of criticism, biographical materials and more. Below is an example list of some guides we have to one particular author.

Guides may be…

  • Books including short commentary by several critics, like 14 by Emily Dickinson (Ref PS1541 .A6 1964).
  • Alphabetically arranged entries on people and places important to an author and editorial histories of his or her work, such as An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia (Ref. PS1541 .Z49 E47 1998).
  • Essays on topics such as an author's literary background, letters, important thematic elements and critical reception, such as The Emily Dickinson Handbook (Ref. PS1541 .Z5 E396 1998).


Indexes can help you find books and journal articles published on a topic. The library subscribes to several excellent online databases, but the print indexes may have additional material not included online.

Important indexes are…

  • Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (print only, located on Reference Level 3, Table 4). High importance, and little overlap with MLA.
  • MLA Bibliography. The premier resource in literary research. Includes material from 1924 onward, and in some cases there is coverage as far back as 1900.
  • Arts and Humanities Citation Index, which allows you to search for sources that cite a source you already have in hand
  • Essay and General Literature Index, which indexes book essays rather than journal articles.

Style Manuals

These are located behind the information desk. You'll want to use the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing at Desk Reference Level 3, PN147 .G444 2008.


Books (Mostly Fifth Floor & Online)

For information on locating books, please see this information on locating our resources.

Book-Length Studies

These may focus on a particular aspect of the work(s) in question (for example, Hornback's Middlemarch: A Novel of Reform) or build a longer argument about a reading of a work (for example, Nethercott's The Road to Tryermaine: A Study of the History, Background and Purposes of Coleridge's “Christabel”).

Collections of Essays

Articles are often published in books as well as journals. Books such as The Reception of Jane Austen in Europe comprise articles by many different authors on the same subject. In some cases, the chapters are explicitly listed in the book's record and will come up with a keyword search; in others, they will not. Some, but not all, of these articles are indexed in MLA. Browsing the shelves or the catalog is also a good way of finding the books containing these articles.


Annotated texts range from those that give only glosses of archaic and unusual words to those that point out and briefly (or not so briefly) analyze each controversial line of a text. Variorum editions summarize the critical and textual commentary in reference to the relevant parts of the text. Scholarly editions of works will also often include useful introductions and even critical bibliographies. The library also holds the correspondence of many authors, which can certainly be helpful in establishing context.

In addition, the library owns some facsimiles of original editions and provides access to Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, a database of images of eighteenth-century original texts.


You will probably want to spend the bulk of your time looking at critical materials, but if you need further information on an author's life, the library holds an array of biographies as well. You can also find biographical material in Twayne's Authors Series, or in the Dictionary of Literary Biography (Desk Reference Level 3, PR736 .B68). Many articles are also available in the Literature Resource Center.

Book-length biographies of many authors are also available. Check the CUNY Catalog or browse the shelves near other works by and about the author.


Periodicals (Mostly First Floor & Online)


You will probably find most of your journal articles in databases. These are a few key databses that index literary criticism; for a more complete list, please go to the Library Databases page and choose “English” from the drop-down menu.

Important databases are…

MLA International Bibliography
MLA's database is a standard of literary research. Includes access to over 4,000 journals, with many links to full-text. It is searchable by classification headings, document authors, subject-index terms, language of the book or article, journal name, and other elements.
Searchable full text archives of journals in all fields, including many on language and literature. Some periodicals are indexed as far back as the nineteenth century.
Project Muse
Provides full-text access to a wide array of journals, including many in the field of literature. Browsable indexing.
Literature Criticism Online
Compiles excerpts of the most important literary criticism on an author or work. The essays are chosen to provide a useful overview of critical work on the literary works in question.
Humanities Source
Cover-to-cover indexing and abstracting of key English-language publications in the literature of the humanities.

Print Articles

Although we may not have a journal article online, that doesn't mean we don't have it. Check the catalog for a print version--if we have it, you'll find it on the first floor. Note that you will need the call number to find the journal.


Locating Resources at Queens College

The CUNY Catalog

The catalog lists all our print and electronic books or journals, though it does not generally list articles. There are two ways to locate materials in the catalog.


When you search the catalog, remember to choose search terms that will help you find books, not articles. This means you can't be as specific as you would in a database. Try searching for the title or author of the work you are interested in (i.e. “Jane Austen” or “Pride and Prejudice”) or combining it with a broad theme (i.e. “Chaucer and gender”). If your search is bringing up too many irrelevant items, you may wish to try the advanced search, which will allow you to combine multiple search types.


This is a very effective way of searching for books on literature. Select Subject begins with and search for your author, last name first. You will see a list of topics dealing with your author. Buttons at the bottom of the screen allow you to move back and forth in this list. Common useful subheadings are Criticism and Interpretation and the names of particular works.

Note, too, that once you find a book you like, you can click on any of the subject headings to see more books on that topic. Find other records will give you more books on the subject, and Browse a headings list will give you that subject in a list, so you can see what else is near it.

Browse the Collection

You can browse the collection itself, too. When you find a good book in the catalog, use the call number to find it in the stacks. Then, look at the books that are near it on the shelf to see if there is anything else you might be interested in. Books are organized by subject, so you should have a good chance of finding more nearby.

Similarly, if you find a good journal article, you may want to check the table of contents or other volumes of that journal for more articles on your topic.


For journal articles in particular, you will need to search our databases. Visit our Databases page and filter for “English” to see a list of databases that you may find useful. Some of the most important are listed on this page under Periodicals.

In a database, you can use more specific search terms. For instance, a search for “Pride and Prejudice” and “Collins” in a database brings up articles about the role of Mr. Collins, while it finds little or nothing in a library catalog.

If We Don't Have It

We don't have everything at the Queens College Library, but we can usually get it for you if we don't. Please see CLICS Intercampus Services for information on getting books from other CUNY libraries, or Interlibrary Loan for information about getting books, articles and other materials NOT held in CUNY.


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