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ENC 1102 - Composition II (Bekas)

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 "Hemingway" in the text, the 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 5,648 results. That's too many to wade through, but the filters in the sidebar allow you to be more selective and strategic:


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 related to Hemingway, you can add a second or third term to the search fields or browse the "subject" filter in the sidebar:


Click "Show More" to see the full list of options and check those you want to add to your search.

For example, I selected peer reviewed articles and added Masculinity to my search and quickly went from 5,648 results to a much more manageable 52 articles from high quality academic journals.

Now let's review some strategies to further refine your results.

Refining Your Results

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 Ernest AND Hemingway. In this case, you can eliminate many unrelated results by searching “Ernest Hemingway” with quotation marks:

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 Hemingway AND Masculinity will only retrieve results that contain those two terms. Your results will be more narrow in focus.
  • Or: Conversely, searching Hemingway OR Masculinity 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 Hemingway NOT Masculinity 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 drop down 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, I added "masculinity to my search of Hemingway. Placing an asterisk at the end of that term (masc*) I will get results for every variation of that word (masculine, masculinity, etc.).
  • 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.

Locating Full Text

Once you have a manageable set of results, click on any title for the full record including the original citation info, abstract, subject terms, citation management tools, and full text options:


If there is no PDF in the article record, click the "Find @ UCF" link in the sidebar on the left. This will direct you to the database has the full text to that article. In this case, the link will direct us back through Primo where we see that the article is available form Taylor & Francis:


That link will route us directly to the article record in Taylor & Francis where we will find the PDF:


Inter Library Loan:

There may be some cases when we don't have direct access to the full text of an article. In those cases, you can submit a request through Inter Library Loan. Once you do that, ILL will locate a copy of the article and send you an email notification once it's ready, often within just a few hours.