Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Introduction to English Language Literature: Reference

UIUC Library

On this page, you will find the references resources  most suitable for your research in literature and its allied fields.

Simply decide which database meets your needs. The tabbed box for each resource walks you through each of the databases, how they work, and what you should do when you locate an item of interest.

For all other databases associated with English Literature, please visit A-Z Databases: English

Oxford English Dictionary

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.

As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from dictionaries of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You’ll still find present-day meanings in the OED, but you’ll also find the history of individual words, and of the language—traced through 3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.

The OED started life more than 150 years ago. Today, the dictionary is in the process of its first major revision. Updates revise and extend the OED at regular intervals, each time subtly adjusting our image of the English language. 

The OED inlcudes: 

  • OED Labs – Our goal is to further develop the OED’s offering to actively support the needs of academic research as they evolve in the coming years. Take a look at new ways to access OED data, including the OED Researcher API and the OED Text Visualizer.
  • Video guides: Take a look at our short guides to help you get the most out of your OED access.
  • Interactive graphic: Whether by sudden invention or unhurried evolution, words come into the English language in all manner of ways. The Oxford English Dictionary’s mission is to record all of these word stories, capturing their development as they continue to unfold.

Search the OED

To look up a word in the Oxford English Dictionary, simply type the work into the "Quick Search" bar.

OED

 

To perform and more comprehensive search, do an advanced search, which you can access by clicking the link of the same name. Here, you can search specifically by subject, language of origin, region, part of speech, usage, and date of entry. You can also search using quotations and definitions. 

undefined

When you search for a word, you'll see one of two pages. If the word has multiple usages, like a noun or a verb, the OED will direct you to choose which one you're specifically looking for. After that, you'll see a page that looks similar to this: 

OED Result

The OED will tell you everything you want to know, from the origin of the word, its etymology, and its meanings and uses throughout history. 

Oxford Bibliographies

Oxford Bibliographies

Oxford Bibliographies provides faculty and students alike with a seamless pathway to the most accurate and reliable resources for a variety of academic topics. Written and reviewed by academic experts, every article in our database is an authoritative guide to the current scholarship, containing original commentary and annotations.

View a complete list of available and forthcoming subject areas.

Offering a rapidly expanding range of subject areas and ongoing enhancements, Oxford Bibliographies is reaching more scholars and students than ever before, increasing productivity, saving time, and elevating the quality of research.

More information about the update program and new user-driven enhancements.

Search Oxford Bibliographies

Enter your keyword or phrase in the search bar to find bibliographies related to your learning and research needs

Oxford Bibliographies Search

Alternatively, you can browse bibliographies by subject.

After you have performed your search, you will discover a list of results. Browse the results to determine which bibliography most closely aligns with your needs.

Oxford Bibliographies Results

Once you have found a bibliography that works for you, click on the appropriate link.

 

 

Now that we have selected an appropriate bibliography, let's study it for useful information. Each bibliography provides  a scholarly summation of the topic, as well as key primary and secondary sources. Be sure to read through the entire entry to discover sources and information that is relevant to your research and learning needs.

Oxford Bibliography Result

Oxford Digital Reference Shelf

Oxford Digital Reference Shelf

Oxford Reference is the premier online reference product, spanning 25 different subject areas, bringing together 2 million digitized entries across Oxford University Press’s DictionariesCompanions and Encyclopedias.

As you browse through Oxford Reference, you may find results that range from short-entry, general reference to more in-depth articles on specialized subjects. See below for more information on the services and collections available through this resource.

In-depth, specialized titles from Oxford University Press’s award-winning Encyclopedias and Companions, and a selection of partner publishers’ scholarly works.

  • New titles and editions are added throughout the year, as they publish in print
  • Title-by-title purchasing allows institutions to build and customize their collections with the subjects they need
  • Includes some of Oxford University Press’s most visited titles including The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd edition and the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th edition

Search Oxford Digital Reference Shelf

Search ODR

You can search for a wide variety of reference material in the Oxford Digital Reference Shelf. In this instance, I elected to search for material related to "Postcolonial Literature." Simply type your keywords or phrase into the search box to gain access to reference material that is related to your research or learning needs.

Searching for "Postcolonial Literature" produces a number of results and included an alternative spelling that we might use for future searches.

ODR Results

Evaluate your results and determine which entry or entries is right for you. Also, be sure to look at the facets on the left hand side to revise your results if necessary. Once you have identified a source that appeals to your needs, click on the link associated with it and begin reading.

Now that we have selected an entry of interest, we have the opportunity to learn more about that particular topic. ODR Result

I selected the entry on "Postcolonial Literature" as published in The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. This is a trustworthy and scholarly source for gaining more information about my topic. The entry provides a robust introduction to my topic and informs me of related sources and resources that will be of use to me as I continue to study postcolonial literature. 
Oxford Digital Reference Shelf is a profound resource that can help you to explore a variety of topics, while providing you with expert analysis and research assistance.

Literature Resource Center

The Destination for Literary Research

Literature Research Center

Gale Literature Resource Center is Gale’s most current, comprehensive, and reliable online literature resource, offering the broadest and most representative range of authors and their works, including a deep collection of full-text critical and literary analysis for literary studies. The resource provides researchers with literary resources to support their literary responses, literary analysis, and thesis statements through a diversity of scholars and critics that ensure all views and interpretations are represented.

Researchers can find up-to-date analysis, biographical information, overviews, full-text literary criticism, and reviews on more than 130,000 writers in all disciplines, from all time periods, and from around the world. Gale Literature Resource Center brings together materials that support interdisciplinary approaches, information literacy, and the development of critical thinking skills. Researchers with a literature, history, arts, gender studies, or cultural studies focus can use this resource to analyze authors and works throughout time.

Search the Literature Resource Center

It is important to define terms that will help you get the best results. As you can see, you can input each of your search terms into its own search box. This enables you to use the database in order to find materials related to your search terms. The search depicted below will produce results related to "Faulkner, William."

LRC Results 1

There are several ways that you can search through the Literature Resource Center:

Person – by or about: Searches for items by or about a particular person.

Name of work: Search for materials about a particular work.

Keywords: Search for key terms in article/book title, abstract, subjects and first fifty words of the text.  

All text: This option will search for the words anywhere in a document. Note: If you're looking for a famous quotation, enclose the quotation in "quotation marks" so that the database treats it as a phrase.

 

Advanced Search

Performing an Advanced Search allows you to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to craft searches that match your interests, or use the platform's facets to limit your search.

undefined

Person Search and Works Search

The Person Search and Works Search allow you to conduct highly focused searches:  The Person Search will search by nationality, literary movement, genre, or place and time of death.  This search is best used for finding all materials on a known author like Sherman Alexie or a grouping of authors, such as Native American short story writers. The Works Search, like the Person Search, allows you to search by type of work, the author's nationality, the publication year, or the original language.  But remember that this database is NOT exhaustive.

Ordering Your Results

Unless you specify otherwise, the LRC will search multiple content types and arrange your results by Relevance in these divided categories:

  • Literature Criticism
  • Biographies
  • Topic and Work Overviews
  • Reviews & News
  • Primary Sources/Literary Works
  • Multimedia

Click on each tab to see the results in these categories. You can change the way your results are ranked, by clicking on the "Sort By" drop-down menu to choose Relevance, Publication Date, or Document Title.

Other Ways to Narrow Your Results

If you have too many results, use the right sidebar to narrow your results further. The white search bar at the top of the sidebar allows you to search again within your results. Alternatively, below the search bar is a list of linked Subjects: Click on a link to see the smaller set of results that match this subject. You can further specify the subject you're looking for by selecting results for Person, Name of Work, Author, Publication Title, or Document Type.

Topic Finder

Topic Finder takes the titles, subjects, and approximately the first 100 words from a subset of your top results and feeds them into an algorithm. Keywords shown in the graphics are those found most often in the text with your search term. This handy tool may help you to discover topics for research papers or introduce you to a variety of texts that are related to your search. 

Topic Finder

As you can see, Literature Resource Center provides access to a wide variety of information, including biographies and multi-media. Select the type of information that you need to refine your inquiry. In this instance, I limited my results to biographical content. However, you should decide what type of information best meets your research or learning need.

LRC Results 2

 

Get What You Need

Now that we have a list of results, it's time to analyze them and determine which articles or other forms of scholarship best match our research needs. After finding an article that appears to correspond with your research question, click on the link to the open the record for the particular article. In this instance, I selected the Literature Resource Center's biography of William Faulkner. This is a helpful result if you would like more information about Faulkner's life, examine his works, or would like to access a bibliography of relevant scholarship.

Faulkner Bio Literature Resource Center

Literature Criticism Online

Gale Literature: Criticism

Gale Literature Criticism

Gale™ takes literature, history and culture to the next level with the largest, most extensive compilation of literary commentary available: Gale Literature: Criticism. Imagine centuries of analysis - the scholarly and popular commentary from broadsheets, pamphlets, encyclopedias, books and periodicals - delivered in an easy-to-use 24/7 online format that matches the exact look and feel of the print originals.

The net result is tens of thousands of hard-to-find essays at your fingertips. It's all designed to raise the level of research while providing the around-the-clock remote access that today's researchers demand.

Search Literature Criticism

Are you looking for information about a particular topic, literary figure, or text? If so, you can use Literature CriticismTo perform a basic search, simply type in the search term in the search bar.

Literature Criticism Search

 

Advanced Search

Performing an Advanced Search allows you to refine your search. Use Boolean operators to craft searches that match your interests, or use the platform's facets to limit your search.

undefined

Topic Finder

Topic Finder takes the titles, subjects, and approximately the first 100 words from a subset of your top results and feeds them into an algorithm. Keywords shown in the graphics are those found most often in the text with your search term. This handy tool may help you to discover topics for research papers or introduce you to a variety of texts that are related to your search. 

Topic Finder

Now that you have entered a search, examine your results to see what items most closely match your research and learning needs. For example, Literature Criticism identifies nearly 1500 results related to William Faulkner. In addition, the resource provides topics associated with the author. These topics can be of broader interest and direct you to significant areas of inquiry.

Literature Criticism Results

 

Get What You Need

Now that we have a list of results, it's time to analyze them and determine which articles or other forms of scholarship best match our research needs. After finding an article that appears to correspond with your research question, click on the link to the open the record for the particular article. In this instance, I selected "William Faulkner: The Novelist as Oral Narrator."

Literature Criticism Results

Once you have selected an entry, simply click on the appropriate link to open the record and the item. 

Literature Criticism Result2

 

As you can tell, this is an abridged version of the longer article. We can use the UIUC Easy Search or a database (See "Databases to Get You Started") to locate the full length article.

 

LCO Results 3

Click on the link to the article in order to access it.

 

Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism is an indispensable resource for scholars and students of literary theory and discourse. Compiled by 275 specialists from around the world, the Guide presents a comprehensive historical survey of the field's most important figures, schools, and movements and is updated annually. It includes more than 300 alphabetically arranged entries and subentries on critics and theorists, critical schools and movements, and the critical and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods.

Search The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism

Are you looking for information about a particular theorist or literary theory? To perform a basic search, simply type in the search term in the search bar. As you can see, we can search the Guide to discover information about "Critical Race Theory."

Hopkins Guide Search

This search will populate a list of results:

Theory Results

Evaluate your results to see which of them best matches your inquiry.

Advanced Search

The Johns Hopkins Guide for Literary Theory and Criticism does not offer a robust "Advanced Search" option. However, it does offer you the ability to perform a search through the entire document, text only, or bibliography.

Advanced Search

Now that you have entered a search, examine your results to see what items most closely match your research and learning needs.

Hopkins Analyze Results

Review the results that your search populated to determine those that best fit your research or learning needs. 

Get What You Need

Now that we have a list of results, it's time to analyze them and determine which articles or other forms of scholarship best match our research needs. After finding an article that appears to correspond with your research question, click on the link to the open the record for the particular article. In this instance, let's select the entry titled "Race and Ethnicity."

Hopkins Analyze Result

This entry provides you with an introduction to the topic. As you evaluate it, you will discover that it lists additional key terms and includes an extensive bibliography related to the entry's topic. This valuable information can help you to find more information related to your research and learning needs.

JH Analyze Results

If you find any of the sources listed in the bibliography to be useful, remember to use the library catalog to search for them. In this case, let's search for Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks.

Black Skin White Masks

undefined

Now, we can check out this book to learn more about our research topic or complete our learning objective.

Cambridge Companions

Oxford Handbooks

Ask A Librarian