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English Literature: American Literature

Guiding you to research resources for English Literature

Reference Books

Don't know anything about your topic? Start here! Reference books, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, are great tools for learning about a topic. The background information and summaries they provide will prepare you to better engage with meatier resources such as books and journal articles. Below are a few reference items to help you get started.


Books & eBooks

Search the library's print book and ebook collections of American Literature in our catalogue.


Let's do a sample search for books on The Scarlet Letter:


1. Start with a general keyword search - scarlet letter.


2. Limit your results to print material by selecting Print books under the Format menu on the left-hand side of the page - note the other formats you can limit by.


3. Sift through the results for a critical book-length study of The Scarlet Letter - chances are you will come across such a book near the top of the results page - and click on the title.


4. Scroll down to find the book's call number - PS 1868 .B39 1986 - which it may be helpful to think of as the book's address. Write down the call number and locate the book in the Education Library. Although each call number is unique, similar books are shelved together, meaning finding one relevant book will lead you to others.


5. To find ebooks, simply repeat step 1 and select eBook from the Format menu. When you find an ebook, click on Access online. If you are off-campus, you will be prompted for your Tyndale username and password.


6. Too many irrelevant results? Don't worry, that can happen with keyword searches. To narrow your results, click on the title of a relevant book. This will take you into a detailed item record view. Click on the Description tab to view a list of subject headings assigned to that book. You can click on any of the subjects to see a full list of other items in our catalogue with the same subject heading. Again, let one good book lead you to other treasures on your topic!




Journal Articles

Search Tips

  • Don't be afraid to try many different combinations of search terms and search strategies. There is no magic bullet for getting the best search results. If you run into a dead-end, don't sweat it! Try using fewer terms - no more than 2 or 3 of the most important related to your topic - and put the word AND between the terms to look for articles with all of your search terms: scarlet letter AND puritans
  • Get comfortable using the advanced search and refine results toolsThese are especially helpful if you run into the problem of too many irrelevant results.
  • Keep track of the search terms and strategies that worked for you. You can even save your searches and return to them - simply set up a personal account in the database you are searching in and save your search histories. This will not only help you to have a record of the search terms and strategies used; it can also be a way to measure how much your research chops have improved over the course of a semester! If you would like help with this, please come see us in the library.
  • Use an asterik (*) to find various endings of a word. For example, typing in feminis* will return results for feminist and feminism
  • Don't be afraid to modify your thesis based on new information you come across in articles and other resources.