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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Guide to Literatures and Languages Databases: ABELL

Scope of Coverage

What ABELL includes:

  • English language: syntax, phonology, lexicology, semantics, stylistics and dialectology
  • English literature: including poetry, prose, fiction, films, biography, travel writing, literary theory and studies of individual authors
  • Bibliography: including manuscript studies, textual studies and the history of publishing
  • Traditional culture of the English-speaking world: custom, belief, narrative, song, dance and material culture

How is it different from MLA?

  • Covers periodicals from other disciplines, like history journals and newsletters
  • Periodicals include more single-author and society newsletters
  • More book reviews
  • Greater international focus from 1920-1955, especially British and Continental


Most of the items indexed by ABELL are in English.

Dates of Coverage

In addition to offering current records, ABELL is the only electronic database that covers the years 1892 to 1962.

Full-Text Access

ABELL is an article index and does not contain the full-text of articles and other cited material. To find the full-text of an item, click on the Discover button: SFX

If the Library does not have full-text access of a indexed item in ABELL, then write down the citation information (i.e., author, title, volume number,  etc.) and then search in the Library catalog. If the item is not available in the Library's collection either, then you'll have to place a request through Interlibrary Loan (ask a librarian if you need help in placing your request). 


Publication year: If you wish to restrict your search to a particular time range, enter the start and end dates in the boxes.

Search in: By checking the box that says "Latest update only," your search results will show only those items that have been added with the last update.

Limit to: Limit to allows you to search all the items in the database, or restrict your search to reviews, articles, or books.

For More Help

For more help see the ABELL: Search Guide or Ask a Librarian.

How to Search ABELL

You can search through ABELL by number of different criteria. The most common ways are by Keywords, Title Keywords (i.e. "Silent Partner"), or Subject (i.e. "Elizabeth Stuart Phelps"):

The results will include citation records for primarily journal articles, books, and book chapters:

Journal articles may or may not be available in full text--click the button under search results to find the full-text version, if it is available. To find cited book chapters and books, search the Library catalog.

Tips for Searching ABELL

Keyword: Use this text box to search for terms, topics, and authors of literary works. A keyword search retrieves citations that contain the queried word anywhere in the record, so it is your best option if your results are too small.  If your results are too many with a keyword search, try narrowing the search by using one or more of the fields below.

Title Keyword: Use this option to search for words in the titles of scholarly articles and books (not the titles of literary works). It is more specific than a keyword search, but can miss items of interest due to the varying words used by the authors of the article. It would be useful if you were looking for the citation of a known article (e.g. you know the article title, but need the name of the journal in which it appears).

Subject: Use this to find works that have been classified under specific subject/genre headings. Subject searches are most effective if you select from the headings ABELL uses. To do so, type the last name of the author of interest or another subject word, e.g. Eliot, and click "Select from a List". ABELL takes you to an alphabetical list of subject headings surrounding the term Eliot. Clicking on the box next to Eliot, George, and then clicking "Select", will put that exact heading in your search box.

Author/Reviewer: Use this to find scholarly articles, books, or book chapters written by particular scholars or critics. E.g. to retrieve articles written by Professor Baym, you would type Baym in the Author/Reviewer field.

Publication Details: This can be used to find works published by a particular publisher or in a particular city. For example, if you were to type in Cambridge, you would retrieve items published in Cambridge MA, Cambridge England, and/or by Cambridge University Press.

Journal: To find articles written in a particular journal, type the name of the journal. For example: Sewanee Review. Or type the first word or two of the title, and click "Select from a list".

Publication Year: Use this to limit your search to a specific range of years (for example, if you'd like to view only citations from the past decade).