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Tutt Library Research Guides


Comparative Literature Thesis: Using databases to find criticism

Search Strategies

You can't always use the same search strategies with different catalogs and databases.

A library catalog like Tiger typically just contains titles, authors, and subject headings.

For catalogs:

  • think broad subject terms for keywords or subject searches
  • find one good books and then browse the shelves when possible
Library databases demand different kinds of strategies depending on what they index.
Most databases only include limited information about the article: title, author, journal or book/collection title, subject headings or keywords, and – if you are lucky – an abstract (summary).
  • try combining the title of a work and a keyword relating to a theme or subject
  • add keywords to get fewer results
  • remove keywords (perhaps just use the title of the work?) or try a broader keyword (the author rather than the title of the work?)
For full-text databases, most notably JSTOR, you will have more success if you use more keywords, since you are searching the full text of the articles.

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography database (link below) is our most comprehensive source for finding articles, book chapters, and books related to literature and language.

Tip: Due to the way that MLA assigns keywords, you may need to be especially patient when searching and "teaching" the database what you mean. For example, sometimes articles that deal with gender issues are assigned the keyword gender. Sometimes, though, only the more specific keywords, such as masculinity, femininity, men, or women are assigned.

So try putting all the words that suggest a particular concept in one search box, separated by "or": "virginia woolf" and "gender" gets about 1/5 the hits that "virginia woolf" and "gender or men or women or masculin* or feminin*" gets.

All Databases for Comparative Literature

Humanities Librarian

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Steve Lawson
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Colorado Springs CO 80903
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