First-Year English: Legacy of the Mediterranean II

Reinventing Literary History II:
Reformation to Modernism

Guide for Finding the Best Resources

Welcome! This page explores the research process, and highlights key resources for conducting effective library research.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation!

Personal Librarian: Meredith Wisner

105 LeFrak Center

Image: Theodor von Holst. frontispiece for Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus. London: Colburn and Bentley, 1831.  

Wendy Schor-Haim


Choosing a Topic | Finding Background Information | Refining Your Topic
Finding Books | Finding Articles | Footnotes and Bibliography | Further Reading | Feedback!


Steps in the Research Process

Choosing a Topic

  • Pick a text that interests you and a theme or idea that you want write about
  • Come up with a preliminary question. It's OK if your question is broad, or if it changes later.  This is a normal part of the research process!
  • Brainstorm some keywords to help you begin your research.

Finding Background Information

  • Use web resources like Wikipedia and Google searches to brainstorm and identify keywords for your topic.
  • Consult the English Department's Preparation of Papers for more information on  resources you can cite in your papers.
  • Consult Columbia University's guide for Evaluating Web Resources for tips on how to identify quality sources on the web.
  • For authoritative reference resources (like scholarly encyclopedias) see the Reference Resources for Legacy of the Mediterranean page.
    These resources:
    • Are written by scholars in their fields, so you can trust the information they provide
    • Give you an overview of your topic,  background information, and help define terms you aren't familiar with
    • Contain bibliograpies to help you find more information related to your topic
    • Can help you find more keywords, phrases, people and ideas to further your research

Refining Your Topic

  • After gathering your background information, refine your intial topic and question based off of what you learned.
  • A good rule of thumb:  if there is an entire book on your topic, it is too broad for a research paper. On the other hand, if the topic can be discussed in a few paragraphs, then it is too narrow.

example: "The role of women in the plays of Shakespeare" is too broad because hundreds of books and articles have been written on this topic; "The symbolism of Ariel's costume in the Tempest" is likely too narrow because there are not enough books and articles discussing this specific detail.

  • Remember, don't worry if refining your topic happens more than once!

Finding Books in CLIO

  • CLIO is the online catalog for finding all kinds of resources in the libraries of Barnard and Columbia. Use the Catalog search to find books, print & online journals (but not articles within journals), multimedia resources, and other materials in the Barnard and Columbia library system.
  • CLIO Tips:
    • Search by "Author" or "Title" in the dropdown menu next to the search box when you know exactly what you are looking for
    • Use the "All Field" to search using your keywords. "All Field" searches the whole catalog record (title, author, summary, subject, etc.)
    • Use "Subject" if you get a lot of results and want to try to locate books that have your keywords as a main topic
    • Some Boolean tricks to help you with keyword searching:
      • Quotations help you search multiple words as a phrase. Example: "Heart of Darkness"
      • Try the asterisk (*) to truncate a word or to search varient spellings. Example: "Femini*" will search feminism, feminist, feminine, and their plural forms too! "Wom*n" will search woman, womyn, and women.
      • For more complex boolean searching check out our Boolean Search Guide.
  • See a book that is already checked out? Order it through Borrow Direct or Inter Library Loan.
  • Worldcat searches library catalogs worldwide. If we don't have a book, check Worldcat.

Searching for Articles in Databases

General and multidisciplinary article databases:

  • Academic Search Complete: is a comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary, full-text database. In addition to full-text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 10,000 journals and a total of more than 10,600 publications including monographs, reports, conference proceedings, etc.
  • Google Scholar: Searched your keywords within the full-text of articles and books. The result in Google Scholar are scholarly in nature, which makes it a better option than a straight Google search. The advanced search allows searching for keywords in the titles only. To access "eLink @ Columbia" go to Settings - Library links.  You also can use Google Scholar to find out whether texts were cited by other scholars after it was published.
  • Find Articles (Summons): Searches hundreds of journal databases all at once.
  • JSTOR: provides access to core journals in many scholarly fields, including History, Literature, Sociology, and Women's Studies, from the earliest issues to within a few years of current publication. Note that JSTOR usually does not contain the most recent issues of a journal, but it's possible that Columbia University Libraries have access via another subscription. Search for the journal title in the catalog for complete access dates.
  • Proquest: is a multidisciplinary database of magazines, newspapers (including alternative and ethnic presses), dissertations, and scholarly articles.

Specialized databases for more targeted article research:

  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index:is a multidisciplinary database covering the journal literature of the arts and humanities. It indexes leading arts and humanities journals with selected, relevant items from major science and social science journals.  This database links publications based on citations allowing one to search the "web" of communication surrounding a topic. 
  • ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials: is an index to journal articles, book reviews, and collections of essays in all fields of religion, starting in 1949. It also features an online collection of major religion and theology journals. Full-text is available for many sources.
  • Gender Studies Database: features scholarly sources in the studies of women, gender, and sexuality. Source documents include professional journals, conference papers, books, book chapters, government reports, discussion and working papers, theses & dissertations and other sources.
  • Historical Abstracts: covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present, including world history, military history, women's history, and history of education.
  • Humanities Full Text: is an extensive database of articles and citations from scholarly journals in the humanities. It has full-text for articles from 1995 onward, and abstracts and indexes from 1984.
  • MLA Bibliography: indexes critical materials on literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore. For full-text, follow the "e-link" to see if Columbia University Libraries subscribes to that journal. If the full-text is not available, you can order the article via interlibrary loan.
  • Project Muse: contains full-text articles from scholarly journals in history and the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences.

Documenting Your Sources (Footnotes and Bibliographies)

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL) provides detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles, as well as subject-specific writing tips and techniques.
  • You can also try CiteSource, a similar citation style resource created by Trinity College.
  • Zotero is a citation management software that allows you to store your references conveniently, and cite them in papers and bibliographies using any citation style you choose. For help, see the Barnard Library's Zotero Guide.

Further Reading

Feedback Please!

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