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Subject Guides

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.

Gale 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).

Additional Relevant Databases

  Google Scholar

Or search 100+ databases at once:


Discover articles and books from many of our databases.

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

Albert Search

Search Albert to find books, movies, etc..

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

When you know the name of an author you want books by or the title of the book you want, try an AUTHOR or TITLE search:

Select Author or Title before doing an author or title search

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.

To find works about a text, search for the author's name as a subject search


What to do if the library doesn't have the book or article you want

Click Check for Full Text. If it says the library does not have the item...

  • If it is a single book chapter or article, use ILLiad to request it. Library staff will see if another library that has it can scan it. If so, you will be emailed a link to download the PDF. Time of delivery varies based on how rare of an item it is.
  • If it is a book, DVD, or other physical item, see if it is in our Link+ network.  Click Request, and it will be delivered to the SMC Library for you to pick up, usually in 2-3 business days. You will get an email when it arrives.
  • If it is a book that is not in Link+, request it via ILLiad. Time of delivery varies based on how far it needs to be shipped.

How do I know my article is from a scholarly journal?

Check the database record for the article and see what it says. But beware: sometimes these classifications are imprecise or even incorrect. Also, while critical essays in scholarly journals may be peer-reviewed, book or theater reviews or commentaries may not be.

Screenshot of Academic Journal article in Multisearch

You can also check Ulrich's, an online periodicals directory paid for by the library, and see whether their research indicates that the title is scholarly and refereed, another word for peer-reviewed.

An Ulrichs record indicating that the title is academic/scholarly and employs peer review.

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

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 Books. If 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!

Looking for book reviews? Try the databases below. (Tip: narrow down your search to the publication year of the book to see more relevant results.)

Use Multisearch to find reviews from library and bookstore trade journals like Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Library Journal, as well as some magazines and scholarly journals.

Use the ProQuest databases to find book reviews in a variety of scholarly journals and newspapers.

Use Gale Artemis Literary Sources to find reviews from trade journals, scholarly journals and books, newspapers, and magazines, as well as background information on the author.

Use Access World News for reviews in national and local newspapers.

Use LexisNexis for even more national and local newspapers.



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.