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ENG L506: Introduction to Methods of Criticism and Research

A library research guide for the English L506 course Home Subject Guide Welcome to the L506 Course Guide

Welcome to the English L506 Course Guide, a research library guide for Introduction to Methods of Criticism & Research. This guide is designed to help you move through the research process (summarized in a graphic below). Included are resources specific to this course. Please contact me, your librarian, with any questions. My contact information is on the left of this page. You can also contact your course instructor.

The Research Process
The Research Process

Detailed description of, "Research Process Diagram"

1. Start with a research question Consider the Scope of your Question

If your question has an easy "yes" or "no" answer, it's probably not a research question. Similarly, if your topic would require tremendous background knowledge, experience, or collection of lots of data, you may not have chosen a feasible question. Your research question should be narrow enough to work on in the time that you have during your semester and broad enough to to be able to locate supporting information ("sources").

Now is the time to talk with your instructor if you have doubts about the amount of work it will take to investigate your question. 

Synthesize Information Synthesizing Information Refining a Research Question

Below are some journalistic questions to ask yourself when considering how to start a research project. These are included as a guiding framework for you to think about and shape your topic. There may be other questions that you need to ask yourself that are not on this list. Use your critical thinking skills and the assignment parameters to determine what is an appropriate research question. If you are stuck here, try reading some background information (see the next page: Find background information) and then come back. Getting some background information on your topic may help you answer these questions better.

Who? - Think about the people that are involved or affected by your topic. Are you interested in a specific group of people? Does your topic related to a trait like gender, sex, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status or something else? Are there key figures in related to your topic? Also, consider your audience--who would be interested to read about this topic?

What? - What are the issues involved with your topic? Are there subtopics that you should investigate? Is there research about this topic that has not yet been done?

Where? - Does place matter? Where did or does your topic take place? Is geography a factor? 

When? - What time period are you investigating? Are you investigating a historical or current topic? Was there an event that happened that caused your topic to become an area of study? 

Why? - What got you interested in this topic? Why would others be interested? 

How? - How are you going to approach this topic? What kinds of information will you gather? What is your methodology?

Is your topic worth pursuing? Does it fill a "gap"?

Consider the theoretical or practical implications of your research topic. Will your paper advance the scholarly conversation about theory in your field? Does it critique existing theories and provide a new perspective? Will your paper provide practical information for professionals in the field to improve their methods or strategies? 

Consider the methodology

In general, it is best to form your research question before deciding upon what methodology you would like to use. First, carefully consider your research question. What aspects of the topic are most interesting to you? Then, reach into the knowledge of methodologies that you have gained from this course to decide which one would be the best approach for your question. What is the data you want to collect? Is the methodology compatible with the results you are interested in? In other words, does the methodology help you answer your research question?

If you're still not sure where to start, perhaps you should do a literature review. Check out the guide at the link below for help:

Literature Review Walks through the process of doing a Literature Review. Literature Review Process

Literature Review Cycle

Flowchart from The Literature Review (2009) by Machi and McEvoy


Detailed description of, "Literature Review Process"

2. Find background information IUCAT

IUCAT Button

IUCAT is Indiana University's online library catalog. Search it to find items held by the IU Libraries statewide, including books, government publications, journals, and other types of material.

Select titles from IUCAT

Below are just some of the many resources we have access to at IUPUI University Library. For help with requesting books from other IU campuses, Interlibrary Loan, or accessing eBooks or databases, please contact me (the librarian).

Dictionary of literary biography complete online Comprised of Dictionary of literary biography series, Dictionary of literary biography yearbook, and Dictionary of literary biography. Documentary series. Provides biographical and critical essays on the lives, works, and careers of the world's most influential literary figures from all eras and genres. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Posthuman The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Posthuman is the first work of its kind to gather diverse critical treatments of the posthuman and posthumanism together in a single volume. Fifteen scholars from six different countries address the historical and aesthetic dimensions of posthuman figures alongside posthumanism as a new paradigm in the critical humanities. The three parts and their chapters trace the history of the posthuman in literature and other media, including film and video games, and identify major political, philosophical, and techno-scientific issues raised in the literary and cinematic narratives of the posthuman and posthumanist discourses. The volume surveys the key works, primary modes, and critical theories engaged by depictions of the posthuman and discussions about posthumanism. Speculative Formalism Speculative Formalism engages decisively in recent debates in the literary humanities around form and formalism, making the case for a new, nonmimetic and antihistoricist theory of literary reference. Where formalism has often been accused of sealing texts within themselves, Eyers demonstrates instead how a renewed, speculative formalism can illuminate the particular ways in which literature actively opens onto history, politics, and nature, in a connective movement that puts formal impasses to creative use.   Through a combination of philosophical reflection and close rhetorical readings, Eyers explores the possibilities and limits of deconstructive approaches to the literary, the impact of the "digital humanities" on theory, and the prospects for a formalist approach to "world literature." The book includes sustained close readings of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Yeats, and Wallace Stevens, as well as Alain Badiou, Paul de Man, and Fredric Jameson. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science In 1959, C. P. Snow lamented the presence of what he called the 'two cultures': the apparently unbridgeable chasm of understanding and knowledge between modern literature and modern science. In recent decades, scholars have worked diligently and often with great ingenuity to interrogate claims like Snow's that represent twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and science as radically alienated from each other. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Science offers a roadmap to developments that have contributed to the demonstration and emergence of reciprocal connections between the two domains of inquiry. Weaving together theory and empiricism, individual chapters explore major figures - Shakespeare, Bacon, Emerson, Darwin, Henry James, William James, Whitehead, Einstein, Empson, and McClintock; major genres and modes of writing - fiction, science fiction, non-fiction prose, poetry, and dramatic works; and major theories and movements - pragmatism, critical theory, science studies, cognitive science, ecocriticism, cultural studies, affect theory, digital humanities, and expanded empiricisms. This book will be a key resource for scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students alike. Background Information & Books

Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge of it. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

Gale Virtual Reference Library (Gale) Interdisciplinary background information to start your research. Oxford Reference Online Interdisciplinary background information to start your research. Wikipedia Yes, it is OK to use Wikipedia for background information, but never cite to it. And only use it as a starting point. Using Wikipedia for Research

Using Wikipedia for Research

Detailed description of, "Using Wikipedia for Research"

English reference sources

Below is a list of reference resources--meaning resources like Wikipedia that you can use to look up quick facts about authors, places, time periods, or literary movements, as well as do some background reading to become more familiar with a topic.  I'm also including the OED and the AP style guide for quick reference on word definitions and grammar usage. 

Be sure to also check the encyclopedia-style databases listed above in the "Background Information" box. 

AP Stylebook Online English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists. Gale Biography In Context (Gale) Biographies in literature, science, business, entertainment, politics, sports, history, current events and the arts. (Access provided by INSPIRE: Indiana’s Virtual Library)
Contemporary Authors (Gale) Biographical and bibliographical information and references on U.S. and international authors. (Access provided by INSPIRE: Indiana’s Virtual Library)
Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online (Gale) Biographical and critical essays on the lives, works, and careers of influential literary figures from all eras and genres. Gale Literary Sources (Gale) Biographies, bibliographies, and analysis of authors. (Access provided by the Marion County Internet Library with support from the Library Fund of The Indianapolis Foundation. Access is restricted to Marion County residents only.)
Oxford English Dictionary Dictionary of the English language, including etymologies and usage quotations. Something About the Author Online (Gale) All volumes of the series, which examines the lives and works of authors and illustrators for children and young adults. Searching in Reference Materials

Searching in reference books and reference databases requires different skills. However, one aspect remains similar. You will need to either search with a keyword or browse.

If it is a book, you can search the Index of the book to find your keyword(s) or topic(s). If it's an eBook, often you can search the full text through a search box. You can browse the book's Table of Contents for its structure and an overview of the book's content. 

If it is a reference database, you can use keywords to search it; however, you may also take a moment to familiarize yourself with how it is structured. Topics may be organized hierarchically, and in that case, you may wish to browse to narrow down to your topic. Also, reference databases, like Wikipedia, sometimes link to other related topics and concepts.

3. Find materials Brainstorming Keywords

Brainstorming Keywords

Detailed description of, "Brainstorming Keyword Diagrams"

Start with a Strategy

To find materials efficiently, you will need to have a search strategy in mind as well as some skills in using databases and other search interfaces. This page will help you figure out the building blocks (keywords) and the techniques (Boolean searching, phrase searching, etc.) to build your strategy. Keep in mind a big picture of where you need to search (what field/discipline are you working in?), as well as a detailed knowledge of the tool you choose to search with (Google Scholar, MLA International Bibliography, etc.). If you're not familiar with keywords or phrase searching, check out the link to the Start Your Research Tutorial below. If you need to know more about a particular resource, look for a tutorial online or a help menu within the database. And, as always, if you get stuck, you can contact me (your librarian).

Search Strategies for Databases

Before you start entering any search terms, spend a few minutes trying to think of as many relevant terms and combinations of terms as you can. This will help you to avoid getting stuck in a rut with the first terms that come to mind.

If you need help in coming up with terms, you may want to try the "Thesaurus" or "Subject Headings" features in the database you've chosen.

Check out the "Help" or "Search Tips" to learn some of the search features specific to that database. Most databases provide similar features, but the methods may vary. Some common tricks:

  • truncation = To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an * (asterisk). For example, type comput* to find the words computes, computer, computing or computational.
  • searching a phrase = Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. For example, "employee retention" searches for the two words as a phrase.
  • Boolean terms (AND, OR, NOT) = Use these terms to connect your keywords. They work best in all capital letters:
    • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel AND Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe.
    • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college OR university finds results that contain either college or university.
    • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television NOT cable finds results that contain television but not cable.
  • Putting it all together: You can combine these Boolean terms with truncation and phrase searching to create powerful search statements. For example, if you are interested in what motivates students in higher education, you might try a search that looks like: (college* OR universit* OR "higher education") AND (student* OR undergraduate* OR "graduate student*") AND motivat*

Try the databases' Advanced Search feature, which usually gives you the ability to search multiple fields (author, title, keyword, subject, etc) with one search and may offer additional ways to expand or limit your search.

If your first search strategy does not work, try another approach. Remember that you can also get help from the library. Check out the links below.

Ask A Librarian Subject Librarians Search Tutorials

If you are new to library research or just want to refresh your skills, here are some resources:

Start Your Research This tutorial was developed by IUPUI's University Library Educational Services Charter Group. Each page will take about 7 minutes to go through. Feel free to jump around. Boolean operators and search tips Module 2 of this tutorials will help you with Boolean logic. Feel free to explore the other modules here; they are from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


If you are looking for more advanced search help in a particular resource or database, look for a Help Menu within that resource. Check YouTube as well for both publisher-, library-, or user-created tutorials. For example, see the video below about the Advanced Search in Project MUSE. I'm also including a link to the MLA International Bibliography YouTube channel below. Of course, you can also reach out to me, your librarian, for a consultation.


Project MUSE advanced search



MLA International Bibliography Tutorials [YouTube] This YouTube page includes 24 videos on various topics related to the MLA International Bibliography, including searching with keywords vs. Subject Terms. 4. Read & Evaluate How to Read a Scholarly Article

How to read a scholarly article

Detailed description of, "How to Read a Scholarly Article"

Literature Review v. Research Paper

What is a literature review?

A literature review can be just a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information. It might give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations. Or it might trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates. And depending on the situation, the literature review may evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant.

How is a literature review different from an academic research paper?

The main focus of an academic research paper is to develop a new argument, and a research paper will contain a literature review as one of its parts. In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. The focus of a literature review, however, is to summarize and synthesize the arguments and ideas of others without adding new contributions.

How do I know when I can stop?

Literature reviews can be tricky because you don't want to stop before you've found everything relevant to your topic. There are a couple of guidelines for knowing when to stop looking for materials.

  1. If you have done steps 1.1-1.3 (below), when you start to see the same articles over again, then you have done your due diligence and can consider your lit review complete. That isn't to say an article might not slip through, but if you have done the steps below, then the chances of a really important article slipping past you is pretty slim.
    1. Searched all relevant databases, using a variety of keywords and subject headings
    2. Mined article bibliographies for their cited references
    3. Looked in Google Scholar (or Web of Science or HeinOnline) to see who has cited those articles
  2. Think of the assignment timeline. If you are writing your PhD thesis you can spend more time doing a comprehensive lit review than if you only have a few weeks until an assignment is due. At some point you need to stop.


Characteristics of a Good Literature Review

Characteristics of a Poor Literature Review

Synthesizes available research

Basically an annotated bibliography

Critical evaluation of sources

Analysis confined to describing the work

Appropriated breadth and depth

Narrow and Shallow

Clear and concise

Confusing and Longwinded

Uses rigorous and consistent methods

Constructed arbitrarily

How to approach synthesizing information Synthesis 5. Organize, Write & Cite Citing Your Sources

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers Book Cover APA Style Book Cover Chicago Manual of Style Book Cover

There are many different "styles" you may choose from when citing sources. Your professor will probably tell you which "style" is preferred for your class. MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA (American Psychological Association) are three of the most commonly used citation styles, but there are hundreds.

Recent editions of style manuals, which include detailed information and examples, are available at the Services & Information Desk at the University Library. If you need help on your research project, please contact a subject specialist librarian.

We have the Chicago Manual of Style available online as well as in print. For quick reference, there are many online sources. One of the best is the Purdue OWL. But be aware that the manual is always the most authoritative source.

APA Style Guide to Electronic Resources Chicago Manual of Style Online University of Chicago Press style guide for citation, grammar, and preparation of documents. Purdue OWL: Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition Purdue OWL: APA Style Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools allow you to keep citations, full-text articles, and other research resources organized in one place. These tools can also be used to format your bibliographies and the citations in your papers according to the appropriate style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) To use these tools, you should be familiar with the target citation style in order to input information correctly and notice any errors in your bibliography. Please contact a subject librarian for further assistance.

End Note

EndNote is software that helps manage citations for bibliographies. Includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions about EndNote, please contact Willie Miller, the EndNote specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.


Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. It includes a Microsoft Word plug-in and web importer. For questions about Mendeley, please contact Rachel Hinrichs, the Mendeley specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.


Zotero is a free Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources. It includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions, please contact Ted Polley, the Zotero specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.

Get Organized!

Before you start to write and cite, you have to keep track of your research. You can do this in whichever way works best for you. Some people use a notebook and turn it into a research journal. Some people make notecards for each potential source, writing down the location of important quotes. Others, like me, have gone paperless and use a Citation Manager that allows you to take notes about each source as well as highlight and annotate a PDF or other file.

A research journal can also be a place to track searches and search strategies. I like to use a spreadsheet to track where I've searched, what keywords I used, and where I still need to look.

The bottom line is for you to track what you've done so you don't have to retrace your steps and so you can locate a source to properly cite it. Professionals have been accused of plagiarism because they failed to take good notes during their research.

EndNote X8 University Writing Center

The IUPUI University Writing Center (UWC) is a free service available to all IUPUI students, faculty, and staff, at both the graduate and undergraduate level. It is a place where students can go for help with writing assignments and projects. The UWC offers students the opportunity to work one-on-one with experienced readers and writers.

The UWC offers two convenient locations: Cavanaugh Hall (CA 427) and University Library (UL 2125).

To schedule a tutoring session at either the Cavanaugh Hall location or University Library location, you may telephone the CA location at (317) 274-2049, telephone the UL location at (317) 278-8171, or visit either UWC location. You must provide both your name and your University ID number, at the time you schedule the session.

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Setting up Alerts

Many databases include an alert feature that you can set up for various criteria. The alert can be for a citation, author, table of contents (TOC), or general topic of interest. The database will automatically be searched for the latest records matching your criteria. Then, the database will send you updated results by e-mail or RSS feed. 

Different databases will have different procedures for setting up search alerts, but the process is more or less the same. Set up alerts by following these general steps: 

  1. Search using search terms and filters;

  2. Save the search as an alert; then

  3. Give your alert a name and select frequency and/or method of delivery (e.g. email alert).

For more help, click the links below or look for the "Help" menu in your database.

Our favorite Library Apps

Our Favority Library Apps

Detailed description of, "Our Favorite Library Apps"

In Google Scholar I Want to Add IUPUI Libraries to My "Library Links"

When you search Google Scholar on your personal computer, you can configure your settings so that IUPUI Library resource links appear in your results. Then you can click the Find It @ IUPUI Link to access a library item.

(TIP: If you're at a temporary computer and don't want to activate these settings, you can access Google Scholar via our Databases page (Library Home Page > Databases > G > Google Scholar). You'll be prompted to login with your IU Login, and then you'll see the Find It @ IUPUI links as well.)

Screenshot of Google Scholar citation and its "Find It @ IUPUI" Link


To configure your Google Scholar Library Links, click on Settings, in the left-hand column.

google scholar screenshot


Then select Library Links and search for "Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis." Check the box in the search select and click "Save."

Screenshot of Google Scholar "Library links" option

Advance Google Search TIps Advance Google Using the VPN at IUPUI
Using the VPN off-campus at IUPUI

Detailed description of, "Using the VPN Off Campus"

Databases & Articles Finding Articles with Google Scholar

To find articles, you can use Google Scholar or the library's subscription databases (IUCAT will only help you find the journals, not the articles). To use Google Scholar, you can use the link below, or access it from the library's home page. Check out the Additional Tips & Tools page for how to link Google Scholar to IUPUI University Library's subscriptions. For more information about searching databases, see the Find Materials page of this guide.  

Google Scholar Google Scholar is an academic search engine that finds citations (and some full text) to articles, books, theses, dissertations, etc. Use the "Find It @ IUPUI" link to locate the full text of articles through our library subscriptions. Set this up at home through Settings >> Library Links. Google Scholar Search Box Why book reviews?

Book reviews sometimes contain criticism, especially ones that are published in literary magazines or journals. Check out the list of databases that contain reviews below.

Databases with reviews Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) Scholarly, popular, and trade articles from 1975-present in all fields. (Partially paid for by INSPIRE: Indiana's Virtual Library.)
Nexis Uni News, business, and legal sources —including U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1790 (previously LexisNexis Academic). Book Review Digest Plus (EBSCO) Reviews of adult and juvenile fiction and non-fiction books, 1983-present. Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1905-1982 (EBSCO) Reviews of adult and juvenile fiction and non-fiction books, 1905-1982. MasterFILE Premier (EBSCO) General interest, business, health, and historical U.S. documents, including Consumer Reports, Business Week, NY Times, and The Wall Street Journal, 1984-present. (Access provided by INSPIRE: Indiana’s Virtual Library)
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Times with Index (1851-2014) (ProQuest) Backfile, 1851-latest available. In combination with the Historical New York Times (1851-2005). Reader's Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 (EBSCO) Index of popular general-interest periodicals covering many subjects published in the United States, reflecting the history of 20th century America. Web of Science Interdisciplinary index that provides citations for high impact journals. Useful for forward citation searching. How to Find Articles in Library Databases

How to Find Articles in Library Databases: 1) Define your topic ; 2) Break it down - pick out the core concepts ; 3) Identify 1-2 synonyms for each core concept ; 4) Combine keywords with AND, synonyms with OR ; 5) Enter your search phrase in a relevant library database ; 6) Look at results and modify search if necessary

Detailed description of "Finding in Articles in Library Databases"

Citation Chaining

Citation chaining is the name for a process in which you use an information source to find other work that is cited within the first source (backwards chaining) or cites to the first source (forward chaining). 

Below is a YouTube video on how citation chaining works in Google Scholar. Keep in mind that you should never have to pay for an article while you are at IUPUI. See "Finding the Full-Text of an Article" for how to access Interlibrary Loan. In this video, look for a "fluff word" that the researcher uses when searching.

Citation chaining in Google Scholar

Web of Science is a database that has a Citation Map feature that allows you to create a visualization of the citation chain for an article or information source. Here's a video that explains to use this great feature:

Choosing a Database

There are many databases, so how do you choose the right one? What if you have always use the same database and have been missing out on other resources? Here are 6 steps you can take to avoid #FOMO:

  1. Check which databases the librarian recommends on this guide; 
  2. Find out which databases are linked to from other subject guides related to your topic;
  3. Filter databases on the Databases A-Z list (link below);
  4. Explore the "about" section of the database to learn about its content or look for the public website about the database for more info (this is the one the vendors use to market the products to librarians);
  5. Ask your librarian or instructor; and 
  6. Find a list online of journals for your area of study and check which databases your favorite journals live in (using Ulrichsweb - link below).
A-Z List of Databases A complete list of all databases. Sort by subject to see just the databases relevant to a specific subject. Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory Information on periodicals (active and ceased) including subjects and publication information. Tells you if a journal is peer-reviewed. Interdisciplinary Databases

Not sure what discipline covers your topic? Not finding enough information? Interdisciplinary databases contain articles from the sciences, social sciences, and arts & humanities. They are a great way to see who is talking about your topic and to expand your research.

Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) Scholarly, popular, and trade articles from 1975-present in all fields. (Partially paid for by INSPIRE: Indiana's Virtual Library.)
ProQuest Central (ProQuest) Interdisciplinary database including scholarly and popular articles, market reports, and newspapers. JSTOR Interdisciplinary, full-text scholarly articles, books, and primary sources. Coverage back to the first issue of journals; embargo on some current content. Library subscribes to the following archival databases: All Arts & Sciences (I-IV); Ecology and Botany I; Health & General Sciences; and Life Sciences. Project Muse Full-text scholarly articles in arts & humanities and social sciences. Google Scholar Search for scholarly documents across the web, with Find It @ IUPUI links. See our FAQ for setting up Google Scholar for off-campus use.

Web of Science and SCOPUS, while interdisciplinary, are weighted towards science.

Scopus Interdisciplinary index primarily for the sciences and social sciences. Useful for forward citation searching. Web of Science Interdisciplinary index that provides citations for high impact journals. Useful for forward citation searching. Literary Criticism in Databases Arts & Humanities Citation Index (1987-present) Index of scholarly articles in the arts and humanities. Humanities Full Text (H.W. Wilson) (EBSCO) Scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as specialized magazines. (Access provided by INSPIRE: Indiana’s Virtual Library)
Humanities Source (EBSCO) Full-text and citations to articles in the humanities, including book reviews. JSTOR Interdisciplinary, full-text scholarly articles, books, and primary sources. Coverage back to the first issue of journals; embargo on some current content. Library subscribes to the following archival databases: All Arts & Sciences (I-IV); Ecology and Botany I; Health & General Sciences; and Life Sciences. MagillOnLiterature Plus (EBSCO) Literary works, reviewed critical analyses, brief plot summaries, biographies and author essays. (Access provided by INSPIRE: Indiana’s Virtual Library)
MLA International Bibliography (EBSCO) Citations for articles on language, linguistics, literature, and folklore. Project Muse Full-text scholarly articles in arts & humanities and social sciences. ProQuest Databases A set of databases featuring scholarly journals, newspapers, reports, and papers. Underground and Independent Comics (Alexander Street Press) Underground and independent comics, comix, and graphic novels.

Gale Databases:

Literature Criticism Online Literary criticism. 19th (Nineteenth) Century Literature Criticism (Gale) Part of library subscription to Literature Criticism Online. 20th (Twentieth) Century Literary Criticism (Gale) Part of library subscription to Literature Criticism Online Drama Criticism (Gale) Part of Literature Criticism Online. Shakespearean Criticism (Gale) Part of library subscription to Literature Criticism Online. Short Story Criticism (Gale) Part of library subscription to Literature Criticism Online. Poetry Criticism (Gale) Part of library subscription to Literature Criticism Online. Finding discipline-specific databases

Databases that are specific to research in English Language and Literature can be found on the English subject guide. The link is below, but you can also find it by going to the library home page > Guides > Subject Guides. NOTE: The list on that guide is not comprehensive.

English subject guide / Finding materials

Additionally, you can find databases by going to the library home page and clicking on the Databases icon. This can be done in two ways: 

  1. If you know which database you want, select the letter that corresponds to the first letter of the database's name, then browse the list (or do a Ctrl+F search) for that name.
  2. Use the 'Subjects,' 'Database types,' or 'Vendors/Providers' dropdown menus to browse our subscriptions.

Also, You can do a site search in the main search box by choosing "Site" and typing in a keyword, like English or writers. The database results will be preceded by "Databases:" as shown below in the search results.

Screen shot of library webpage's site search feature

If you don't know which database to use, choosing the right database can take a little bit of research. Note that each database on our A-Z list has a description underneath that provides some information, usually provided by the vendor. To find out more about a database, try:

  1. An internet search. Often the publishers or vendors of databases will have a page online advertising their products to libraries and other institutions. Additionally, Wikipedia can be a source of information about databases. For example, check out the page on JSTOR. Notice the section on limitations. What implications does the information about the "moving wall" or embargo have for your research? 
  2. Look for an 'About' page within the database. Take the MLA International Bibliography for example. On the About page you can learn what other databases it shares content with, perhaps saving you time from duplicating searches in other places. But don't take my word for it, test it out yourself.
  3. Look for a list of journals or publications that are included in the database. For example, on the About page of Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA), you'll find a link called "View Title List." Clicking on this link will automatically download the latest spreadsheet of Serial titles (journals) that are in the database's content and will give you information about the level of coverage of each serial.
4 Methods to Find an Article's Full Text from a Citation

Forward and Backward Citation Searching. To expand your research, and do a thorough literature review, you should do a forward and backward citation search on really relevant articles. Backward = review the bibliography of the article. Forward = Search for the article title in Google Scholar and/or Web of Science to see who has cited the article since it was published.

Finding the Full-Text of an Article

Process for finding full-text

Detailed description of, "Finding Full Text" diagram

Journals & Publishing Is your journal "peer-reviewed" or "refereed"?

Many databases offer the option to search for "peer-reviewed" journal articles - those are academic articles reviewed by the authors' peers for accuracy during the editing and publishing process.

If you are using a database that does not have this filter option, or if you find an article citation somewhere else, you can check if the article was published in a "peer-reviewed" journal or magazine by using Ulrichsweb. Search for your journal or magazine by title and look for a little black and white striped jersey icon next to its name. 


Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory Information on periodicals (active and ceased) including subjects and publication information. Tells you if a journal is peer-reviewed. Find out about a journal's acceptance rates

Use the MLA International Bibliography database's Directory of Periodicals to look up individual journals. The Directory provides lots of information about the journal including number of articles submitted and number of articles published. To get the acceptance rate, brace yourself fellow English scholar, you're going to have to do a little bit of math! Just kidding, it's not that bad. Simply divide the number of articles published by the number of articles submitted and, voila, the acceptance rate! However, sometimes the journal doesn't provide this information or the information is only a rough estimate. Others calculate the acceptance rate based on the number of articles sent to reviewers instead of the number of total articles received.

MLA International Bibliography (EBSCO) Citations for articles on language, linguistics, literature, and folklore.

Cabell's Directories of Publishing Opportunities also provides information on the publishing process. See the database's information for which disciplines it covers.

Also, check out the Humanities Journals Wiki for information about various types of Literary Journals.

Browse Electronic Journals

Easily browse for journal articles online through our electronic journals portal.  Search for individual titles in the search box, or browse the journals by subject using the drop down menu below the search box.

Open Access Content

Open Access LogoWhen you are affiliated with a higher education institution, you have information privilege. That is, you have access to Library-subscribed scholarly content that is not freely available on the open web. Little known fact: this access usually ends when you graduate.

Led by academic libraries and information activists, the Open Access (OA) movement provides an alternative: a bridge to to open scholarship, no matter your institutional ties. OA expands the content that is available across access barriers, and is gaining ground in the scholarly community.

OA resources will be available to you after you leave IUPUI. For more information on open access at IUPUI see the Center for Digital Scholarship website.

As you engage in your research, explore the following OA repositories:


BASE is a vast cross-disciplinary international metasearch for OA content.


The Directory of Open Access Journals covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals and aims to cover all subjects and all languages.

OpenDOAR Logo

OpenDoar is an authoritative directory of academic open access repositories. From University of Nottingham, UK.


ROAR provides up-to-date visual access to a huge database of open access repositories.

Publishing OA

When the time comes to publish your work, you may wish to consider a publisher's stance on open access. To check if a journal is published OA or partially OA, you can use the link from the previous box to the DOAJ. To check on a publisher's copyright and OA policies, use the link below to the SHERPA/RoMEO database. I've also included a link to IUPUI's UL Center for Digital Scholarship's guidance on choosing a quality OA journal.

Open Access and You!!! SHERPA/RoMEO Finding a Quality Open Access Journal Tips from University Library's Center for Digital Scholarship Cofactor Journal Selector Tool You can use this tool to identify journals that meet your publishing requirements. For example, you can identify OA journals that still have an Impact Factor. Impact factor and other metrics

The word "Impact" in large font

When talking about the metrics for articles and journals, it's tempting to conflate impact with quality. However, citation and altmetrics do not measure the quality of research; that is what peer review is designed to do. Instead, they are indicators for how articles, books, or other scholarly products affect the world. Metrics like the Journal Impact Factor or the h-index use citations to do this, while altmetrics use data from social media platforms like Twitter, Mendeley, and Facebook. There are many ways to measure the impact or influence of an article or journal. Our Data Management Librarian, Heather Coates, has put together slides that provide some information on various metrics. Feel free to reach out to her with questions about this content: Heather Coates.

Research Metrics and the Humanities Citation & altmetrics - a comparison

You may have heard of a journal's impact factor. Though not a measure of quality of an article, the impact factor measures the frequency articles are cited within particular journals. It is commonly referred to in the science and social science fields. The link below from the University of Virginia Claude Moore Health Sciences Library explains how to use the Journal Citation Reports database to find out a journal's impact factor. I'm also including a link to the JCR database below.

How do I find the impact factor and rank for a journal? Journal Citation Reports (ISI) Tool to evaluate the influence of research and journals (most frequently cited, impact factor). In the areas of science, technology, and social sciences.

Alternative ways of measuring a journal or article's influence are becoming increasingly available through advances in technology. Below are some brief overviews on what is referred to as altmetrics. I'm also including a link to a free tool from an altmetrics company, Altmetric. Their Bookmarklet allows you to instantly find out if there is buzz about an article in social media and other article-level metrics.

Altmetrics: What, why, and where? Power of altmetrics on a CV The Altmetric Bookmarklet (free download) Books & eBooks Databases with reviews Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) Scholarly, popular, and trade articles from 1975-present in all fields. (Partially paid for by INSPIRE: Indiana's Virtual Library.)
Nexis Uni News, business, and legal sources —including U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1790 (previously LexisNexis Academic). Book Review Digest Plus (EBSCO) Reviews of adult and juvenile fiction and non-fiction books, 1983-present. Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1905-1982 (EBSCO) Reviews of adult and juvenile fiction and non-fiction books, 1905-1982. MasterFILE Premier (EBSCO) General interest, business, health, and historical U.S. documents, including Consumer Reports, Business Week, NY Times, and The Wall Street Journal, 1984-present. (Access provided by INSPIRE: Indiana’s Virtual Library)
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: New York Times with Index (1851-2014) (ProQuest) Backfile, 1851-latest available. In combination with the Historical New York Times (1851-2005). Reader's Guide Retrospective: 1890-1982 (EBSCO) Index of popular general-interest periodicals covering many subjects published in the United States, reflecting the history of 20th century America. Web of Science Interdisciplinary index that provides citations for high impact journals. Useful for forward citation searching. Finding a Book at University Library
Find a Book at University Library
Detailed description of, "Finding a Book at University Library"

IUCAT Button

IUCAT is Indiana University's online library catalog. Search it to find items held by the IU Libraries statewide, including books, government publications, journals, and other types of material.

WorldCat Narrow Search Box

IU doesn't have every book. If you are not finding what you need in IUCAT, then search WorldCat, which contains books from libraries all over the country. If you find a good book, you can request it via InterLibrary Loan.

Search for an item in libraries near you: >>
Understanding LC Call Numbers

What exactly is a call number anyway?
A call number is the unique number given to each book in the library. Call numbers are like addresses, they tell you where a book will be located in the library.

Why should I know how to read one?
If you understand how to read a call number, it will be a lot easier for you to find books in the library.

What does a call number look like?
This library uses LC call numbers (LC stands for Library of Congress), which use a combination of letters and numbers. The same exact call number can be written 2 different ways:

A call number that you find in IUCAT (the online library catalog) will look like this:
CT105 .K55 1981

And that same call number will look like this on the spine of the book:
So, here's how you read a call number on the spine of a book:
CT        --Read it alphabetically (A, B, C, CT, D, E, F, G, H, HA, HQ, etc.)
105       --Read it numerically (1, 10, 100, 100.5, 105, 1005.10, etc.)
.K55     --Read alphabetically and then decimally (.A23, .A233, .A33, .B4555, .B50, etc.)
1981     --The final line is a date.
And here is how this book would be placed on the shelf:



So now that I know how to read a call number, how do I use it to find books in the library?

  1. When you find a book that looks interesting in IUCAT, make sure you write down the entire call number.
  2. Check the location code to find out in what library the book will be (IUCAT contains books from all IU libraries).
  3. Look at the first letter(s) of the call number. Use this to figure out what part of the library to go to. Once you are on the correct floor, look for labels at the end of each set of bookshelves. These will tell you what call numbers can be found on those shelves.
  4. Find the book on the shelf and take it to the Service & Information Desk (2nd Floor) to check it out.
Finding and using eBooks

eBooks can be found through IUCAT and in several databases. If you know the title, start in IUCAT. Look for a result with both the print book & online resources icon -- these indicate an eBook. You can also choose the "online only" option below the search box and use the "Book" filter on the left hand side to find eBooks. 

Note: eBooks are licensed by campus not by library, so be careful not to use the library filter in IUCAT.

Screen shot of IUCAT showing filters used in a search

Also note, when you are in the book's record in the catalog, be sure to choose the link that is for IUPUI:

If you know your book is an EBSCO or ebrary publication, search the eBooks from EBSCOhost database or the ebrary database (both listed under 'E' on our Databases A-Z list). Note: Many databases allow you to create an account and save titles to your profile or virtual bookshelf.

For more information on eBooks, see the How-To Guide (link below).

Library How-To Guide:

E-Books: Finding and Using Electronic Books

Popular eBook Databases

ProQuest Ebook Central This database contains ebooks from trusted publishers in all academic subject areas along with powerful research tools. Formerly ebrary. Includes library subscription to Academic Complete. ABC-CLIO eBook Collection Ebooks on a variety of history and other humanities topics. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) Ebooks on a variety of topics. Web Content Google Scholar Search Box Finding and using online sources

Using the internet for research is something we all do. It's your responsibility as a scholar to evaluate the information you find to be sure that it is credible and authoritative. Use the 'Evaluating Resources' page for guidance on how to choose appropriate sources or contact your instructor or librarian.

The links below are specific to the field of Composition/Writing.

Comp FAQs Rebecca Moore Howard Bibliographies for Writing Studies Scholarly Publications Repository (IUPUI ScholarWorks) ScholarWorks shares over 5,000 articles, posters, reports, theses, educational materials and historical documents submitted by members of the campus community. WAC Clearinghouse WPA-CompPile Research Bibliographies CompPile is an inventory of publications in writing studies, including post-secondary composition, rhetoric, technical writing, ESL, and discourse analysis.

The following links are for literature resources online:

SSRN Humanities: English & American Literature Research Network Advance Google Search TIps

Information is produced on a cycle that depends on source type. Newer sources of information and information from niche groups or on niche topics tend to be better sourced online. Here are some helpful tips for making your Google search experience more effective.

Advance Google Places to look for criticism and more
  • Open web:
    • Google Scholar
    • Book reviews (also found in some databases)
    • Scholarly blogs
    • Institutional repositories (typically searchable by Google Scholar)
  • Social media
    • Follow an author
    • Find a page dedicated to a theory like Postcolonial Studies
  • NY Times Literary Supplement (in the UL Pop Shop - Level 2 of University Library)
End of Class Evaluation Evaluation Instruction Survey
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Updated Apr 09, 2020 by Webmaster