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Literary Criticism: How to Find It: Database Searching Tips

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Tips for Searching Literature Databases

1. In searching each of these databases, putting a phrase (or title of a work) in double quotation marks will force the search engine to search for your exact phrase (or title).

2. If you are searching for a work of literature with a unique title, like Dylan Thomas' sonnet sequence "Altarwise by Owl Light," just entering the title in a keyword search will be enough to bring up all articles containing that title. The articles will not necessarily all be on that work of literature, but the title will be contained in each one.

3. In the case of a work of literature with a common title, like William Blake's poem "The Lamb," adding the author's name to the search will be necessary to limit your search to articles on Blake's poem.

4. Sometimes a search using just the title of a work, say Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, will bring up an overwhelming number of articles. In this case, you should add to your search other key words or phrases describing the particular theme, or themes, of the work you want to explore. If you were interested, for example, in the treatment of the theme of the "American Dream" in Miller's play, you might enter a search like "death of a salesman" AND "american dream" to narrow the number of results to only those on the theme you are interested in.

5. Search for books, essays or articles about characters from the work in question. For certain characters with more unusual names, just using their name (Willy Loman, Hester Prynne) in a literary database will be enough to find relevant materials. In the case of a character with a more common name, you may also need to include the title of the literary work ("john watson" AND "a study in scarlet"). In the case of very well-known characters, you may need to also include the theme you are interested in along with the character name ("lady macbeth" AND "guilt") to reduce the number of results to only those meeting your needs.

Oscar Wilde