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English: effective library research for dissertations: 6. Find: Research Databases

Online support to assist with planning and conducting your library dissertation research

Databases provide access to scholarly research, including journal articles, conference proceedings and books.

Highlighted below are the core resources for English.

 

As well as these research databases, there is a vast collection of other resources relating to particular literary periods that you may want to consider in your research. Find out more in the Which resources do I use? section on this page.

Databases for English

About Databases

What is a database?

Research databases enable you to see what has been published in the area you are researching. They contain detailed records of thousands of journal articles, book references and conference proceedings. These records usually include the article title, authors, abstract (a brief summary), keywords (to enable your search to find it) and more.

Why should I use a database?

  • They are a valuable way of searching for published scholarly research across a wide number of sources
  • You can build complex searches using sophisticated search interfaces. There will be plenty of options to refine your searches, ensuring that the results are likely to be relevant to your needs
  • They contain huge numbers of records, and thus provide comprehensive subject coverage
  • They also provide frequent (often daily) indexing, and so are very up to date

There are many different databases. Their interfaces will all vary, and they may use different terminology.

However, they all have similar features. Once you are familiar with these, you'll be able to find your way around different databases. You can see the main features in the examples below.

This is what a standard database interface looks like:

Once you click the Search button, the results page appears:

It is important to note:

  • Some databases provide full text access to the articles themselves.
  • Some databases are primarily indexes or bibliographic databases, and although they provide information about the content of a journal article, they may not provide full-text access to the actual article itself.
  • Some databases are a mixture of full-text and indexed/bibliographic access.

 

So, when searching databases, be prepared for an extra step. 

After finding a relevant article or book you need to check whether you have access to that item, either in print or in full-text online.  Many of the databases will have a Check for this at Exeter button; clicking on this link will check whether we have access to the item.

 

For more information and top tips on finding the full text, see the How to access full text articles libguide.

In some cases, material you want to consult may not be available to you at Exeter. 

You will be using vast literature databases which feature many millions of resources from around the world. There are a number of options that may be of assistance to connect you with the information you need. 
 

Document Delivery Service

This service can be used  to request books/journal articles from other libraries. There is a charge for this service. Check online to see what arrangements are in place with your College / Department for covering the costs of this service.  You may have an allocation or your supervisor may provide a prepaid token for the request. 

 

Student Book Suggestion Scheme

Students can make book suggestions to the Library. Submit requests online and they will be reviewed by the library. If the book is unlikely to be used by others after your dissertation work, then you may be directed to the Document Delivery scheme instead, for short term access to material.

 

Library Hub Discover

Use this service to search across the book and journal collections of the UK research and specialist libraries.

You can search to see if copies of books/journals are available in other libraries that you could visit whilst at home over the vacation, or by a special trip.  Always check the access requirements before you travel, if you wish to visit another library.  Find out more about visiting other libraries. 

ProQuest One Literature - Literature Online

It has been designed as the foremost platform for conducting Literary Research and incorporates Literature Online.

It contains 3 million literature citations from thousands of journals, monographs, dissertations, and more than 500,000 primary works – including rare and obscure texts, multiple versions, and non-traditional sources like comics, theatre performances, and author readings. 

Enter your terms into the search box, e.g. romanticism AND byron.

Your results are displayed divided into content type.

For example, if you would like to locate the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Select Author Pages option from above the search box

Enter Geoffrey Chaucer in the search box this should give search options as shown below. Select "Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400" or select the Go Directly to option.

 

The Author Pages provides a short biography of the author, links to the primary texts, recent criticism, criticism over time and reference works. 

For example, you are searching for texts related to war and death that were published between WW1 and WW2.

  • Select Primary Texts from the left hand side tab under
  • Enter war and death in the Key words in text box and search.
  • To restrict to the date range fill in the publication dates on the left hand side as shown below.
  • Enter 1914 in the Publication Date: From box.
  • Enter 1945 in the Publication Date: To box.
  • Click Update

The Texts list of results page will be displayed, listing the author, the title of the work containing the selected words and  the line(s) containing the words.

For example, you are looking for occurrences of the word "jealousy" Literature Online will include old spellings as well for many keyword.

You can see the variants of Jealousy highlighted below:

For example, you are searching for reference material on the works of Scott Fitzgerald.

  • Select: Reference Works
  • Enter Fitzgerald, Scott into the Subject box.
  • Click Search.

The results list will display all relevant materials.

For example, you would like to hear Jayne Cortez reading her own works.

  • Scroll down to the Poets on Screen Collection and select it.
  • Search for Jayne Cortez in the search box.
  • Click on "The Guitars I used to know." You can now watch the video.

 

Or, you would like to listen to a Shakespearean Play.

  • Scroll down to the Shakespeare Audio Plays Collection and select it.
  • Select Shakespeare Audio Plays.
  • Under browse specific issues select 2003
  • Click on "Loves Labor Lost"

Here you can listen to the full play or select the relevant act.

For example, you are interested in learning more about poet Ezra Pound and hope to locate some of his poems.

  • Select the Author Pages from the search options above the search box.
  • Type in Pound Ezra and this should give option below for Pound, Ezra 1885-1972 and search.
  • Then select the Author page result.
  • At the bottom of the profile, you can access Primary Text, Recent Criticism, Criticism Over Time and Relevant Reference Works.

JSTOR

JSTOR is a valuable research resource for secondary resources.  You can use it to search and find the full text of published books and journal articles.

Use the How to Search JSTOR LibGuide for an introduction to the service or take a look at JSTOR's Vimeo channel for educational and instructional videos. 

Enter your search

You can use the Basic search box that appears at login.

Alternatively, select the Advanced Search option for additional options.

The example below shows a basic search for book and article content that includes reference to marlowe and shakespeare and ambiguity

View your search results

You can refine your results if you find too many as a result of your initial search.

You may find it useful to select the Show Snippets option. This will highlight the appearance of your search terms:

 

Click on the title of the journal article/book/book chapter to view the item. You can also download the item.

You can also see how many times your search terms appear across the article and link through to the pages where the terms appear, via the View Results link.

 

Understanding Shakespeare is a collaborative project between JSTOR Labs and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Click next to any line of text in a Shakespeare play, and relevant articles from the JSTOR archive immediately load.

Explore the collection here.

 

Here is an example from Richard III. There are 17 articles within JSTOR with reference to the first line of the play:

 

The Text Analyzer is another useful research tool:

  • Upload a file and the tool will analyze the keywords and produce a list of JSTOR items that match those keywords
  • You can even use your phone to photograph some text and upload that for analysis!
  • You need a fairly significant piece of text, but you can use assignments, reports or journal articles
  • You will get mismatches and it will work better with some searches than others
  • If you are struggling to retrieve content from your usual search strategies, why not see if this helps.

Find out more about it here, and this brief introductory video will give you an overview of the tool.

 

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography covers scholarship dealing with the following fields:

  • Literature: from all over the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America
  • Folklore: folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems
  • Language and linguistics: the study of languages from any historical period, including history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, syntax and translation
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts: film, radio, television and theatre
  • History of printing and publishing
  • Teaching of language, literature, rhetoric and composition at college level (from 1998 onwards)

The most common materials listed are books, book articles and journal articles.

Which resources do I use?

As well as these research databases, there is a vast collection of other resources that you may want to consider in your research.

To help you identify which resources will be useful to you, take a look at the following tabs. You can find out more information about how to search the resources by visiting the English: which resources do I use? guide.

 

 Take a look at the Shakespeare resources guide for information in this area.

Visit the Film Studies: effective research for dissertations libguide for further help with key resources in this area.

 

 

For creative writing resources, take a look at the Which resources do I use? guide

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