Skip to Main Content

English - Literature and Composition

A guide to resources for English courses focusing on the study of literature and the process of writing.

LibGuide for Literature

Welcome to the LibGuide for English courses focused on the study of literature and the process of writing.  This guide will help you navigate library and other online resources.


Constructing a Search

As opposed to using general search engines, it is not enough to find scholarly content through basic keyword searches. Library catalog holdings will not be indexed on the open Web, so when searching there are several ways to help retrieve varied and specific results rather than using keywords.

Using index values is a great way to help develop a structured and specific search. Indexes are sections of records that are very specific, having certain standard values that identify certain characteristics of items they represent. The following values can be used to help refine or expand search results based on the index value of a part of the topic/item desired.

Values for Searching:

Boolean Operators
Boolean Operators are helpful tools to expand or refine multiple keywords in a search. When searching our catalog, it is recommended to capitalize the operators. The operators include:

  • AND - a connector between terms. This shows how many results contain each the desired terms, resulting in a small result list. ex: eagles AND condors AND California
  • OR - an expander of retrieved results. This will generate a list containing all results lumped together for each term searched. Ex. Diabetes OR cancer OR america.
  • NOT - a value that excludes any unwanted results from a desired result set. Ex.chemistry NOT inorganic

Useful Index Values

  • au: author search. Use last name, first when searching. Use = to search as a phrase Ex: au=Steinbeck, John
  • yr: year. Use to limit results for content published (or reprinted) within certain years. Ex. au=Steinbeck, John AND yr:1939
  • """" (quotation marks): phrase searching, differentiates keywords from phrases, will search groups of text as a whole. Ex. "The Grapes of Wrath" or "organic chemistry"
  • su: subject headings:  searches subjects found within records of records, not necessarily records of individual items. Ex. su:Migrant agricultural laborers Fiction.
  • * (asterisk) - this value is a "wildcard" marker to help find variations of words or phrases, especially if they are hard or time consuming to spell. Ex. ti=On the revolutions of h* AND au:coper*
  • () (parentheses) - terms placed within parentheses help locate additional subsets of information within an overall specific search. Ex. ("native american" OR "american indian" OR Indian) AND "north america"  AND treaties
  • pb: publisher. Ex. pb:Oxford Uni*

The helpful thing about these indicators is that they can be used creatively or interchangeably in searches to provide a suitably broad or very specific set of results depending on the topic. It is up to the researcher to experiment with terms they come across (both popular and scholarly) in their studies to find the best strategy to get the most relevant results. Click here to find more indicators, indexes and values that could be of use when searching our catalog.