Subject Guides

Getting Started

Click the headers below for links to how to search for books and articles on your topic, and how to cite your sources!

Finding Books with Albert & Link+

Look up books in the SMC Library's catalog, "Albert":

Albert Search

Search Albert to find books, movies, etc..


Advanced Search

If you don't find what you need in Albert, request a book from one of our partner libraries through Link+, for delivery in 2-3 business days.

Finding General and Biographical Reference Works

The reference collection contains many works that will provide quick information on English and American literature. These can be very broad or very specific in nature: an encyclopedia on American literature or an encyclopedia on Mark Twain. Browsing the Reference collection can often be very useful: Call number 808.08 for general literature; 820 for English literature; 810 for American literature.

Finding Books By or About an Author

To find a single work or a collection BY an author, first try searching by the AUTHOR’S last name.  If that doesn't work, try searching by KEYWORD or TITLE:

To find works ABOUT an author, such as general criticism, criticism of a specific work, or biographies, search the author's name as a SUBJECT.

Databases (Literary Criticism, Biography, & Research Articles)

Top Databases for Criticism and Biographical Info

The single most important database for research in literature is the MLA (Modern Language Association) International Bibliography, which indexes scholarly articles, books, book chapters, dissertations, and conference papers that focus on literary research.

Artemis Literary Sources is your one-stop search for biographical and reference articles (Gale Virtual Reference Library and Literature Resource Center), literary criticism (Literature Criticism Online and Literature Resource Center), and poetry, stories, speeches, and plays (LitFinder). 

More Literary Criticism

This reference database offers access to nearly 65,000 essays contained in some 5,300...

More Author Biographical Info

Combines over 300,000 biographies on more than 200,000 people from 70 Gale Group sources such as...

Biography reference bank combines the complete content of Wilson's Biographies Plus Illustrated...

Provides searchable full-text e-book versions of many reference works, including multi-volume...

Interdisciplinary Databases

Didn't find what you need at the links above? These databases have scholarly and popular articles in English Literature and other disciplines.

You can also try Multisearch, a search engine of dozens of the library's databases:


Discover articles and books from many of our databases.


Dissertations and Theses

Includes citations for dissertations ranging from 1861 to those accepted last semester; those...


Evaluating Resources

How do I know It's a Scholarly Journal?

Some of the following characteristics are found in most scholarly journals. As you examine the publication, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the word "journal" or "review" in the title of the periodical?
  • Is the publication published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society or association? (Hint: Examine the inside cover or first few pages of the journal.
  • How frequently is the publication published? (journals tend to be published monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually rather than weekly)
  • Is there a list of reviewers (editorial board) on the inside cover or title page?
  • Are individual articles organized into at least two of the following sections? Introduction or Literature Review; Theory or Background; Subjects; Methods; Results; Discussion; Conclusion
  • Does the article have a bibliography or list of references to identify what sources were used to write the article?
  • Does the title of the article reflect its content (is it fairly detailed?)?
  • Is there an abstract at the beginning of the article?
  • Who wrote the article? Are the author's credentials listed? (Hint: Often this information on the first or last page of the article. If not, check at the beginning or the end of the publication for a list of all the authors and their credentials). Journal articles are usually written by college and university professors or scholars from research institutes or associations.
  • Is the article based on either original research or authorities in the field? (as opposed to personal opinion)
  • Are there supporting diagrams or illustrations with the article.
  • How long is the article? (journal articles tend to be longer than a popular magazine article, sometimes as long as 20-30 pages!)

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, then it probably is a scholarly journal!


For more help, watch this short video on evaluating sources:

Evaluating Sources Video

Citing & Writing

Help with Citing in MLA Style

MLA Style Guide

MLA Tutorial Video (3:30):

Citing Resources: MLA video

Web & Desktop Apps for Managing Your Sources



Writing Advising

Having trouble putting it all together? The SMC Center for Writing Across the Curriculum (CWAC) offers peer-to-peer advising sessions for both undergraduate and graduate students. You can call or stop by to make an appointment, or drop in and see if an adviser is available. See the CWAC website for more information, stop by their office on the first floor of De La Salle, or call 925-631-4684.  

Finding the Text of a Story, Essay, Poem, or Play

So you've got the name of a story, essay, or poem, but aren't sure how to get the full text, since you don't know what magazine or book it appeared in? Try searching in these resources:

This reference database offers access to nearly 65,000 essays contained in some 5,300...

Index to poetry, including full-text and excerpts of some poems. Included in the online version...

This is an index to short stories written in or translated into English that have appeared in...

This database indexes over 30,000 plays and over 500 monologues by author, title, subject,...

Also try searching for the title and author in the databases listed earlier in this subject guide. 

If it was published in the U.S. before 1923, it is in the public domain and might be free on the Internet. Google it.

Try Google BooksIf Google Books shows you what book it appeared in, check Albert or Link+ to see if we have that book or can get it for you.

Can't find it? Ask a librarian!

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