Topics discussed on this page include:
The UCF Libraries provides access to many high-quality subject databases, academic journals, and scholarly monographs as well as reference materials and primary source collections. Knowing how to locate these high-quality resources efficiently will help make your research process a stress-free experience.
If you are unsure how to locate these resources, the best starting point will be the English Database Page. The main literature database will be the MLA International Database, which is developed and maintained by the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Before reviewing the different types of resources available to you, let’s watch Jada discuss her research process at this stage:
Jada began by reviewing the scholarship on James Baldwin in MLA, JSTOR, and several African American studies databases. In the discovery stage, Jada is taking snapshots of the scholarship in an attempt to identify recurring themes, concepts, and connections as well as gaps and tensions in the research that will be her entry into the scholarly conversation. There is a lot of trial and error at this stage. Many students get frustrated when they don’t immediately find what they’re looking for, but there’s a lot of exploration in the early stages of research. Be strategic with your keywords and don’t forget to explore multiple subject databases.
For example, Jada explored databases outside literature to incorporate varying perspectives on her topic. The most fruitful of these was an article entitled, “The Sociology of the Ghetto in James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues.’”
Throughout this process, Jada discovered two themes she felt were worth exploring: Marxism and critical race theory. While still broad, these are narrow enough to get her started. As she continues with her literature review, she’ll want to sharpen these into a more focused research question, a process we will discuss in the next section.
- Modern Language International (MLA): The premier English/literature database. This should be your starting point as it indexes most of the key literature journals.
- Academic Search Premier: Not exclusively an English/literature-specific database, but “ASP” will contain a good variety of literary scholarship and should be part of any literature review.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography: The online version of the classic DLB contains critical essays on the lives, works, and careers of the world’s most influential literary figures from all eras and genres.
- JSTOR: A multi-disciplinary full text database that provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.
- Literature Criticism Online: Excerpts and full text of articles and essays providing a critical discussion of authors and their works.
- Literature Resource Center: Information on literary figures from all time periods of writing in such genres as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, history, journalism, and more. Includes the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
- Oxford English Dictionary: The online version of the OED is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words — past and present — from across the English-speaking world.
- Project Muse: An extremely high-quality collection of scholarly journals and e-books from many of the world’s leading universities and scholarly societies.
As literary studies become increasingly multi-disciplinary, it is wise to search for scholarship in other subject databases such as Historical Abstracts, PsycInfo (Psychology), ERIC (education), Film and Television Literature Index, the Philosopher’s Index, and others. You can access these and many more on our main database page.
Searching core journals by title can be beneficial as well. This can be a smaller, more controlled search that will provide insight into current trends in your field and can also help you track down specific citations. To access journals individually, click on “Journals List” below the Primo Search bar on the Libraries’ homepage:
From there, you can search journals by title, keyword, or browse by discipline. For example, typing “digital humanities” into the search bar will show you all the journals we have access to with that phrase in the subject or title.
Although much current scholarship can be accessed in online journals and databases, books are still common and invaluable resources. These can be accessed by conducting a Primo search. When conducting your literature review, focus on books published by university presses and academic publishers. If a book is available electronically, there will be a direct link to that version in the catalog record where it can be read online and/or downloaded, depending on what kind of access we have to that title.
Encyclopedia, dictionaries, bibliographies, biographies, scholarly companions, handbooks, and guides are often overlooked resources that can provide essential background information and context for your research topic. The easiest way to locate reference materials is to conduct a keyword search in Primo and add one of the above terms (encyclopedia, dictionaries, bibliographies, biographies, etc.) to your search.
You can also run a general search in Primo and, once you have some results, use the “Library Section/Area” filter in the sidebar to isolate reference materials. This same strategy can be used to locate media, documents, and other specialized formats.
You can also use a database called Reference Universe to search our entire reference collection at once. This tool is useful in locating resources that are easily overlooked but useful for your research. The results will not only point you to specific books with information on your topic, but they’ll provide the exact page number as well!
- Research Consultations: Jada mentioned the importance of talking to professors or scheduling a consultation with a subject librarian. Both of these are often underutilized resources. Professors with expertise on your topic are often happy to talk to students and make book or article recommendations. Likewise, subject librarians are available to meet with students to discuss their research strategies. You can schedule an appointment with the librarian in your field by filling the UCF consultation request form.
- Research Tips Thursdays: Are you interested in becoming a better researcher? Want to waste less time during the research process, so you can write better papers? Join us for UCF’s Research Tips Thursdays! This webinar series highlights a different research tip every month including: Identifying the Best Sources for Your Major, Using Popular Tools to Fuel Your Research, stress-free searching, enhancing your presentation skills, and more. See the UCF Research Tips Thursdays. guide for a full schedule.
- Inter-Library Loan: Request books/articles from other libraries through our Inter-library Loan (ILL) by submitting a request through your ILLiad account.
- Scholarly Communication: Contains useful information for all aspects of the research process including collaboration tools, data management plans, citation management, ethics & compliance, copyright, Creative Commons, grant planning, and more. See the full list here.