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American Literature: Finding Articles via databases

A guide to the resources available at the Bobst Library for the study of American Literature

Database Search Tips

Here are tips for better search results in databases. This usage works on most databases, but check 'Help' sections for supported search syntax. 

Boolean: (using operators: and, or, not) 

mother and father searches for occurrences of both words within scope defined.

mother or father searches for one or all, but both are not required.

mother not father searches for occurrences of the word ‘mother’ without use of the word ‘father.’

(mother not father) and god searches for occurrences of the word ‘mother’ without use of the word ‘father,’ then also requires the word ‘god.’


art* searches for art, arts, artistic, artful, etc.


m?n searches for man and men. 

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a time-saving, scholarly search interface accessible from within the Google interface. With Google Scholar, you can access peer-reviewed journal articles, books and book sections. For literature searching, specialized databases have more functionality and access more comprehensive results, but Google Scholar is a good tool

Other important databases

General Databases

General databases contain content from a variety of subject areas as well as a number of different publication types.  They will allow you to look at your topic from a wide perspective. 

Be sure to use the search refiements each database may offer, including: date, document type, and source type.

Literature-specific databases

Unlike the general databases, literature (or any subject) specific databases generally focus solely on journal articles as a publication type and do not have a broad, multidisciplinary approach.

What is the MLA Bibliography?

This short (3-minute) video introduces the MLA International Bibliography, one of the most important research tools for literature and related fields. You can find more tutorial videos on the MLAIB at the Modern Language Association's support site for the MLAIB.

What Is the MLA International Bibliography? (on ProQuest) from MLA International Bibliography on Vimeo.