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.
Access the MLA database, along with all the other key literature databases, through the English databases page. Once there, you'll see this landing page where you can get started by entering one or more keywords into the search bars:
When constructing a search, focus on keywords, subject terms, short phrases, titles or works or publications, or authors. Databases respond best to short, concise keywords or phrases. 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 will search for Jack Kerouac 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 narrow and focus your results as you go. In this case, my search yielded 846 results. That's fairly broad, 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, 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 "race" to my search and quickly went from 846 results to a much more manageable 12... 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:
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 Beat AND Generation. In this case, you can eliminate many unrelated results by searching “Beat Generation” 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:
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:
Because MLA is primarily an index with less full text than other databases.Therefore, it's important to understand the options you have for access the full text of anything you find while searching MLA. This screenshot illustrated how those options work:
The easiest option is when the PDF is available within the article record. You may also see an HTML version, but the PDF is optimal.
The second option is Find @ UCF: This indicates that we either have access in another database or we can get it from Inter-library Loan. To see which option is available, click the Find @ UCF link to be directed to whichever database has the article. For example, the Find @ UCF option for "La Beat Generation en France" routes us through Primo where we see that the text is available in the Project Muse Premium Collection:
From there, just click the link into Project Muse to access the article.
If there is no link to another database, you'll see the UCF Request Article option. This will direct you to Inter-Library Loan where you can place a request for that article. For more information about how to do that, see the ILL section of the Finding Books page.