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ENL 3451 - Topics in British Literature (Hopkins)

About the MLA International Bibliography

The Modern Language International Bibliography (MLA) is the most extensive and comprehensive English/literature database available. It indexes more than 2.7 million records from scholarly publications dating back to the 1880s with more than 7000,000 added annually. The coverage is global and contents include literary theory and criticism, linguistics, the history of printing and publishing, some creative works, and pedagogical materials.

Its also important to know that the MLA is primarily an index, so there will be less full text than in some other databases, such as JSTOR, which is 100% full text. Therefore, making efficient use of the MLA requires you to know how to access text in a variety of ways. We'll discuss these options, along with some other search tips, in the section below.

Constructing a Search

Access to MLA is provided by EBSCOHost, so when you first open the database, you'll land on this common EBSCO interface:

To get started, there are three search fields in which you can enter keywords, subject terms, short phrases, titles or works or publications, or authors. Databases respond best to short, concise keywords or queries. Avoid long phrases or questions. Think about the strongest and simplest words related to your topic and enter those into the search fields.

Note that I've left the menu on the right to the default "Select a Field." This is casting the widest net possible as the database will search for the word "Vikings" in the text (if available), abstract, titles, and subject terms. I'm also starting with a broad term to show how the advanced search filters can help you narrow and focus your results as you go. In this case, my search yielded 1,128 results. That's too many to wade through, but the filters in the sidebar allow you to be more selective and strategic:

Use the "Refine Results" options to limit your search to source type. For example, if you're just interested in journal articles form a specific date range, you could check the "peer reviewed" filter and use the sliding publication date scale to quickly eliminate entries that don't match your criteria. Further, if you want to focus on a subcategory within the expansive realm of "Vikings," you can add a second or third term to the search fields or browse the "subject" filter in the sidebar:

From there, click "Show More" to see the full list of options and check the ones you want to add to your search. For example, I selected peer reviewed articles and added "Saga" to my search and quickly went from 1,128 results to a much more manageable 69... all high quality peer reviewed articles form academic journals.

Click on any title for the full record including the original citation info, abstract, subject terms, citation management tools, and full text options:

Note that, in this case, the full text PDF is right in the record. This will frequently not be the case with MLA, so let's review all your options for finding full text. 

Quick Tips

This section covers several database search tips including Boolean Operators, wildcards, truncation Symbols, and shortcuts that will make your research more efficient.

Quotation Marks: Placing quotes around a phrase will join those words together instead of searching them separately. This can be extremely useful if you are dealing with a phrase that consists of common words such as Viking AND sagas. In this case, you can eliminate many unrelated results by searching “Viking Sagas” instead:

Boolean Operators: Strategically incorporating And, Or, and Not into your searches will help you get better results by narrowing or expanding your search and by eliminating unnecessary terms from your results. For example:

  • And: Adding this to your search will create a narrow set of results. For example, combining Vikings AND sagas will only retrieve results that contain those two terms. Your results will be more narrow in focus.
  • Or: Conversely, searching Vikings OR sagas will expand your search by retrieving results with either one of those terms.
  • Not: This will narrow your results by excluding a term that is irrelevant to you. For example, searching Vikings NOT sagas will eliminate a term that occurs frequently. If that’s not the main focus of your research, excluding it from your results can help narrow and focus your results.  

Boolean operators will be located from the dropdown menu within a database’s advanced search options. For example, this is what they look like in MLA:

Truncation Symbols: Including asterisks, question marks, and exclamation points can help streamline your searches by ensuring that you are capturing word variations and alternate spellings. For example:

  • Asterisks: Placing an * at the point where the spelling of a word could change will search for every variation of that word. For example, when dealing with James Baldwin, race and racism will be a recurring theme. You can save time by searching for rac* which will retrieve results for race, racism, racialized, racial, and raced.
  • Exclamation Points: Used for searching variations of the same word with alternative spellings. For example, wom!n = women or woman.
  • Question Marks: Useful for searching words and names with alternate spellings, such as British and American variants or words that are translated in slightly different ways. For example, colo?r = color and colour.

Finding Full Text

As mentioned above MLA is primarily a index with less full text than other databases.Therefore, it's important to understand the three options you have for access the full text of anything you find while searching MLA. This screenshot illustrated how those three options work:

Note that the three full text options below each record include PDF, find full text, and request item Here's an overview of each of those three:

1. PDF: This s the most obvious because you can download the article right from the record. You may also see an HTML version, but PDF is always optimal.

2. Find Full Text: This indicated that we have direct full text access to that article in another database. Click that link to be directed to whichever database has the article. For example, the Find Full Text icon in this case will direct us to De Gruyter: 

From there you'll be directed through the UCF Proxy to the De Gruyter website to access that article:

Translating the Gospel in Viking Age England: The Evidence from Two Old Norse Loan Translations from Old English

3. Request Item: This option indicates that UCF does not have direct access to that article, but we can get it for you from Inter Library Loan. Click that link to be directed to a landing page where you can connect to your personal Inter Library Loan account:

Note that, even if you have never used Inter Library Loan, you do have an account. The first time you use it, you'll be prompted to activate your account by filling in your contact information. Once that's done, your account will be active and you'll be able to request books or articles we don;t have direct access to here. You can also access your account directly through the ILL homepage.