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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University

English: Home

Your how-to guide for research for your English courses

What do you need to find?

Books and Scholarly Journal Articles  Biographies and Articles about an Author  Reviews of Fiction and Nonfiction  Dictionaries, Definitions, Writing Guides

The English Major's Survival Kit

Library Catalog

Library Catalog

The classic version of the library catalog. Search the library’s collections to find books, e-books, journal titles, films, and more. Search your topic by keyword or subject--or search for specific items by author or title.

MLA International Bibliography

MLA International Bibliography

Find scholarly articles, book chapters, and dissertations in literature, languages, folklore, & communication. Includes links to available full-text articles. Great for literary criticism and explication. Does not include book reviews. Tip: Start by searching for broad topics (e.g., Virginia Woolf) and narrow from there.

Oxford English Dictionary

Oxford English Dictionary

OED Online contains the text of the OED twenty-volume print edition. Each entry provides a definition, etymology, pronunciation, variant spellings, quotations, and a date chart.

Literature Resource Center

Literature Resource Center

Find biographical information and excerpts of criticism in this online reference tool covering more than 130,000 novelists, poets, essayists, journalists, and other writers.

Academic Search Premier

Academic Search Premier

This premier, multidisciplinary database indexes over 13,000 journals, with full-text articles from nearly 9,000 journals. Find high quality articles on just about any topic in any discipline, from the arts to the sciences. Primarily scholarly in nature, but also covers trade publications and top-notch general interest magazines. Date coverage varies by publication, with most articles going back to the mid-1980s, and a few as far back as the late 19th century.

History Research Guide

History Research Guide

Choose a specific area of research, get inspired for background reading and topic selection, access the Quick History Search, and learn tips for focusing your topic.

Credo Reference

Credo Reference

700+ full-text encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference books from the world’s leading publishers, providing authoritative information in the form of quick facts and in-depth articles. Find background information, key concepts, historical context, and lists of the best books on a topic.

My topic is too broad!

This problem is very common.  Take a look at some background information on your topic (in a handbook or companion, encyclopedia, Wikipedia, etc.) and think about the different aspects of that topic--what's most interesting to you?  The Topic Finder from Artemis Literary Resources is very helpful for this process. 

  • A place or region
  • A specific literary work
  • A genre
  • An aspect of the author's life
  • A topic (love, politics, religion)
  • A certain theoretical approach (e.g., feminist)

Start searching your topic.  This is the only way to get a feel for how narrow or broad it really is. If there are volumes and volumes written about your topic, you need to narrow it some more, but you need to find enough to inform and support your paper--it's a delicate balance. When in doubt, talk to your professor, but do so AFTER you have done some preliminary searching and background reading.

My topic is too narrow!

You usually reach this conclusion after 1) Your professor told you the topic is too narrow; OR 2) You can't find enough information on the topic.  If you can't find enough information, go through the secondary sources guide to make sure you have covered your information options or contact your reference librarian. If your professor told you your topic is too narrow, try the following tip.

Search for your author, not just a specific work, then narrow from there. Or, pick a broader theme. Example, if you are interested in the color blue in a specific poem, search for books and articles about color and symbolism in literature, then try to narrow to your specific author. You may not find anything written on your EXACT topic. That's actually good news--you have original thoughts! Look at other scholarly articles to see how they pull together different pieces of scholarship--and parts of the literary text itself--to make their case. 

Quick Search

Search for articles in a number of relevant databases in one easy search.  Includes the MLA International Bibliography, Academic Search Complete, Communication & Mass Media Complete, and Education Source.

Limit Your Results

Your Subject Librarian