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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

English Language & Literature: Additional Information about Core Article Databases

This guide is your starting point for research in English Language & Literature. For more in-depth assistance, please make an appointment for a research consultation.


What ABELL includes:

  • English language: syntax, phonology, lexicology, semantics, stylistics and dialectology
  • English literature: including poetry, prose, fiction, films, biography, travel writing, literary theory and studies of individual authors
  • Bibliography: including manuscript studies, textual studies and the history of publishing
  • Traditional culture of the English-speaking world: custom, belief, narrative, song, dance and material culture

How is it different from MLA?

  • Covers periodicals from other disciplines, like history journals and newsletters
  • Periodicals include more single-author and society newsletters
  • More book reviews
  • Greater international focus from 1920-1955, especially British and Continental


Most of the items indexed by ABELL are in English.

Dates of Coverage

In addition to offering current records, ABELL is the only electronic database that covers the years 1892 to 1962.

Full-Text Access

ABELL is an article database and not a full-text archive.  In other words, the stuff that you find there -- articles, chapters, etc. -- isn't actually located there.  Most of the time, though, you'll be able to find the full-text of the item almost immediately.  To check for full-text access, click on the SFX Link.  If we don't have full-text access, then you'll want to note any citation information, like journal name, volume number, or book title, and check to see if we have a print copy of that item in our catalog.  If we don't have full-text access and we don't have the item somewhere in our collection, then you'll have to interlibrary loan it.

Keyword: Use this text box to search for terms, topics, and authors of literary works. A keyword search retrieves citations that contain the queried word anywhere in the record, so it is your best option if your results are too small.  If your results are too many with a keyword search, try narrowing the search by using one or more of the fields below.

Title Keyword: Use this option to search for words in the the titles of scholarly articles and books (not the titles of literary works). It is more specific than a keyword search, but can miss items of interest due to the varying words used by the authors of the article. It would be useful if you were looking for the citation of a known article (e.g. you know the article title, but need the name of the journal in which it appears).

Subject: Use this to find works that have been classified under specific subject/genre headings. Subject searches are most effective if you select from the headings ABELL uses. To do so, type the last name of the author of interest or another subject word, e.g. Eliot, and click "Select from a List". ABELL takes you to an alphabetical list of subject headings surrounding the term Eliot. Clicking on the box next to Eliot, George, and then clicking "Select", will put that exact heading in your search box.

Author/Reviewer: Use this to find scholarly articles, books, or book chapters written by particular scholars or critics. E.g. to retrieve articles written by Professor Baym, you would type Baym in the Author/Reviewer field.

Publication Details: This can be used to find works published by a particular publisher or in a particular city. For example, if you were to type in Cambridge, you would retrieve items published in Cambridge MA, Cambridge England, and/or by Cambridge University Press.

Journal: To find articles written in a particular journal, type the name of the journal. For example: Sewanee Review. Or type the first word or two of the title, and click "Select from a list".

Publication Year: Use this to limit your search to a specific range of years (for example, if you'd like to view only citations from the past decade).

MLA International Bibliography

What the MLA includes:

  • World literatures, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Folklore: folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems
  • Linguistics: history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, and syntax to translation
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts (film, radio, television, theater)
  • History of printing and publishing
  • History, theory, and practice of teaching language, literature, rhetoric, and composition

What the MLA does NOT include:

  • Works exclusively on classical Greek and Latin literatures
  • Works on subjects like aesthetics, human behavior, communication, and information processes, except as they relate directly to human language or literature


The majority of journals indexed by MLA are in English, although there are at least seventy other languages represented.  These include French, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Turkish.  If you'd like to limit your search by a particular language, see the box below.

Dates of Coverage

Most journals have coverage from 1926 to the present.

Full-Text Access

MLA is primary an index and contains only some full-text articles. If you need the full text of a book chapter or an article that isn't available in the database, use the SFX Link. The SFX Link will tell you if the Lehigh University Libraries have access to the material--online and/or in print--and where it is located.  If we don't have full-text access online, don't despair. Click on "Check Library Catalog for holdings" to see if we have a copy in print, or you can request the item through Interlibrary Loan.  Don't hesitate to ask a librarian for help.

Basic Search v. Advanced Search

  • When you do a Basic Search, you are using one line with no specified fields, and a much smaller number of limits.  Because it will search for Keywords anywhere in the database, you arre likely to find many more results.  *However*, only some of the results will be relevant, and so you will have to sort through all of the irrelevant hits.
  • If you are looking for something specific, it will often save you time to do an Advanced Search.  This will allow you to search a number of different fields in a number of different lines, narrowing the focus of your search.  

Using the Thesaurus

  • At the top of the EBSCO interface, there is a blue bar with a variety of different tools.  On the left, next to "New Search," is a link to MLA's thesaurus.
  • Here you can search for Subject Terms used by the database.  To begin, try entering words that might be related to your topic.
  • You can specify the type of search you want to do by clicking on the radio buttons next to "terms begin with," "terms contain," or "relevancy."
  • Once you've clicked on a word or phrase, it will display Broader Terms, Narrower Terms, Related Terms, and Used For.

Using Subject Terms and General Subject Terms

  • First, check the thesaurus to discover what words MLA uses to describe what you're interested in. You can use these terms to find all of the other items that have also been assigned those words subjects.
  • If you're unable to find a heading in the thesaurus that matches your topic, try doing a keyword search.  This will return many more results than a subject search, but not all will be related to what you're interested in.
  • When you find an item that looks relevant, look to see what Subject Terms have been assigned to it.
  • In addition to Subject Terms, MLA also breaks down each item into General Subject Terms.  These include the subject literature, the period, the primary subject author, and the genre.  In some cases, an item will have multiple sets of General Subject Terms, like in this example.  You can use these General Subject terms in much the same way as the Subject Terms, to bring together all of the items that share that subject.

Literature Resource Center

What the Literature Resource Center covers:

The Literature Resource Center "supports undergraduate work in English, World Literatures, Film, and theater."  Unlike the MLA, this database contains both primary and secondary resources, in addition to reference materials.  For this reason, it can be a good place to do preliminary research before getting more in-depth with MLA and other databases.

More specifically, the LRC contains:

  • Biographical information, from sources like Contemporary Authors and the Dictionary of Literary Biography, and author portraits
  • Full-text articles from more than 390 journals and literary magazines
  • Overviews of frequently studied works
  • Full-text poems, short stories, and plays
  • More than 8,500 interviews
  • Links to selected Web sites
  • Definitions of literary terms from the Encyclopedia of Literature


Although the majority of resources at LRC are in English, there are also many items in French, German, and Spanish.

Dates of Coverage

The LRC goes all the way back to the 22nd century B.C.E.!  But most of what you find won't be nearly that old.  Nor will you necessarily find the latest journal articles.  Instead, the LRC is really for doing preliminary research.  If you haven't narrowed a topic yet, this is a good place to start your research, just don't begin AND end it here.

Full-Text Access

Full text is immediately available in the Literature Resource Center.

Basic Search v. Advanced Search

The LRC Basic Search allows you to search for words or phrases in three fields (see descriptions on the left): person -- by or about; name of work; keywords; or all text.  You can also set some basic limits, such as peer-reviewed, publication date, and content type.  The Advanced Search will allow you to do all of these, but, in addition, you can add more limits and search by multiple fields.  If your results are too many with the Basic Search, try using multiple search fields and limits to narrow your results.

Person Search & Work Search

The Person Search will allow you to search the database for a particular type of person, according to the profile you create.  You can specify things such as nationality, literary movement, genre, even place and time of death.  For example, if you want a list of English Renaissance poets, or Japanese novelists born before 1940, or Native American short story writers, use this search.  But keep in mind that the list is NOT exhaustive.

The Work Search, like the Person Search, allows you to create a specific profile and to search for all works that match that profile.  You can specify things such as the type of work, the author's nationality, the publication year, or the original language.  For example, if you want a list of Victorian poems by English authors or Italian short stories published in 1962, search here.  But again, keep in mind that the list will NOT be exhaustive.

Ordering Your Results

Unless you specify otherwise, the LRC will search multiple content types and arrange your results accordingly.  These include:

  • Literature Criticism
  • Biographies
  • Topic and Work Overviews
  • Reviews & News
  • Primary Sources/Literary Works
  • Multimedia

You can also specify the way in which your results are ranked, by clicking on the "Search by" drop-down menu.  By default, LRC ranks results by relevancy, though you can choose to have them ranked by "Publication Date (Descending)" -- from oldest to most recent -- "Publication Date (Ascending)" -- from most recent to oldest -- or by Document Title, which will rank your results alphabetically.

Other Ways to Narrow Your Results

If you have too many results, it might be a good idea to use the left sidebar to narrow your results further.  You have two options: you can search within your results, by keyword, or you can narrow your results by subject, person, author, work, publication, or document type.  Note: these modifications will apply only to the content type you're currently viewing.