Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Poetry and Short Stories: MLA

Scope of Coverage

The MLA International Bibliography is the most comprehensive index for research works on literatures and languages. The database contains citations for secondary works in:

  • World literatures, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South Americas
  • Folklore and folk art
  • Linguistics
  • Literary theory and criticism
  • Dramatic arts
  • History of printing and publishing
  • Rhetoric and composition

The MLA does NOT include works exclusively on classical Greek and Latin literatures or works on subjects like aesthetics, human behavior, communication, and information processes, except as they relate directly to human language or literature.


The majority of citations indexed by MLA are in English. But at least seventy other languages are represented, including French, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Turkish.

Dates of Coverage

The MLA contains citations from 1926 to the present.

Full-Text Access

MLA is primary an index and contains only some full-text articles. If you need the full text of a citation that isn't available in the database, click on the Discover button icon to search all Library holdings for its location in another database and/or in the Library catalog:


Search Fields

(TI) Title: search this field if you are looking for known-items or items with your search terms in their title (e.g. "'Action Is Eloquence': The Staging of Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragedy")

(AU) Author: search this field if you are looking for items by a particular scholar (e.g. Greenblatt, Stephen)

(SK) Primary Subject Work: the title of the work you are interested in researching (e.g. "The Revenger's Tragedy")

(SA) Primary Subject Author: the author of the work you are interested in researching (e.g. Tournier, Cyril)

(SU) Subjects -- All: search this field for controlled-vocabulary words, names, or phrases that describes what the item is about (e.g. "revenge tragedy," staging)


Limits are tools that enable you to focus on certain types of materials for your search based on specific categories and characteristics.  Here are some of the most common ones you may use:

Exclude Dissertations: We strongly recommend that you check this box to exclude dissertations from your search: dissertations are tricky to use and best to leave out.

Limit by Source Type: Use this to restrict your search to only one type of item such as Book, Book Article/Chapter, or Journal Article.

Limit by Language: Select "English" in this menu to limit your search to only English-language texts.

Limit by Peer Review: Check the box next to "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" to search for only those items in scholarly journals.

Limit by Linked Full-Text: Check the box next to "Link Full-Text" to search for only items with full-text.

Limit by Publication Date: Type in the publication date limits for your search.


How to Search MLA

Advanced Search

The opening search page of the MLA International Bibliography database is actually Advanced Search. This search mode is the most effective way to search MLA.  It provides three search bars so that you can search for multiple key terms at once:

You can also apply different limits to your search, including by Publication Date, Publication Type, Language, Genre, and Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals (see the sidebar).

After you type in your search terms and click on the Search button, you see a list of results:

These results will include citation records for journal articles, books, and book chapters. Journal articles may  or may not be available in full text--if they are, then you will see Linked Full Text, HTML Full Text and PDF Full Text icons, as shown in the above example. Citations for book chapters and books will not have full-text links, so to find them, click on the button to search all Library holdings. 

When you click the Discover icon, the link will take you to a page similar to the one below.  In addition to locating items in the catalog, you can also use the Discover system to search for the full text version of journal articles in the library's other databases.

While MLA does not provide access to the full text of the article shown in the example above, the full text is available through another database, in this case Project Muse.  If the full text is available for a journal article through any of the library's databases, direct links to those databases are generally provided under the "Online Full Text" heading.

Basic Search

Basic Search is a simple search that you can access through the "Basic Search" link below the Advanced Search bars. We strongly recommend that you use Advanced Search, but if you're overwhelmed by all of the options, select Basic Search. 

In Basic Search, you can type in one key phrase, title, or author, and choose to limit by Pubication Date, Linked Full-Text only, Language, or Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals.

More Search Tips

Using the Thesaurus

  • At the top of the EBSCO interface, there is a red bar with a variety of different tools. On the left, next to "New Search," is a link to MLA's thesaurus. Here you can search for Subject Terms used by the database. To begin, try entering words that might be related to your topic.

  • You can specify the type of search you want to do by clicking on the radio buttons next to "Term Begins With," "Term Contain," or "Relevancy Ranked."
  • Once you've clicked on a word or phrase, it will display Broader Terms, Narrower Terms, Related Terms, and Used For.


Using Subject Terms and General Subject Terms

  • First, check the thesaurus to discover what words MLA uses to describe what you're interested in. You can use these terms to find all of the other items that have also been assigned those words as subjects.
  • If you're unable to find a heading in the thesaurus that matches your topic, try doing a keyword search.  This will return many more results than a subject search, but not all will be related to what you're interested in.
  • When you find an item that looks relevant, look to see what Subject Terms have been assigned to it.
  • In addition to Subject Terms, MLA also breaks down each item into General Subject Terms. These include the subject literature, the period, the primary subject author, and the genre. In some cases, an item will have multiple sets of General Subject Terms, as in this example. You can use these General Subject terms in much the same way as the Subject Terms, to bring together all of the items that share that subject.