Poets and Correspondences

Wheatley, Phillis (1776). Excerpt of letter to Obour Tanner. Image from Swann Galleries, via Wikimedia Commons.

Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective research for the English Senior Seminar: Poets and Correspondences.

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

Personal Librarian

Vani Natarajan
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Finding Books and Media Materials

CLIO includes the online catalog of Columbia University Libraries, Barnard Library, and Union theological Seminary (Law Library and Teachers College Library have separate catalogs). To search within the CLIO catalog, select "Catalog" from the left-hand menu.   CLIO also includes records of CUL materials held offsite, which you can use CLIO to request.

Some CLIO Search Tips:

  • It can often be helpful to start with a more expansive search (i.e. fewer terms entered into the search box), and then use facets and sorting to narrow down your results.
  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card. writ* searches for writing, writings, written, write, writ, etc.
  • Surround words with quotes to search them together as a phrase, i.e. "letter to the editor."
  • When using CLIO to find primary sources:
    • Include relevant terms in the search box (with "keyword" selected): i.e. correspondence, lettters, etc.
    • You may wish to use the Subject (Genre) facets to narrow down to the kind of source you are looking for, such as correspondence, essays, diaries, interviews, personal narratives. 
    • If you wish, give yourself a date range using the "Publication Date" facet.

Beyond Barnard and Columbia

BorrowDirect allows you to borrow books directly from the libraries of Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, the University of Chicago, and Yale, in addition to select libraries of Harvard and MIT. Items requested through BorrowDirect typically deliver in 3 to 4 business days, with a 6-week loan period + one 6-week renewal.

Interlibrary Loan lets you borrow books, music scores, and selected audiovisual items (i.e. maps or films) that are not currently available at Columbia University Libraries. You can use ILL to request PDF scans of journal articles, as well. ILL has a larger scope of participating institutions than Borrow Direct.

New York Public Library  offers a variety of ways to search and explore their collections:

  • Classic Catalog searches materials across all branches and divisions of the library.
  • Digital Collections offers access to a limited, yet extensive, selection of digitized images, text, sound, and video from the library's collections.
  • Find Archival Materials searches archival collections across the library's research divisions, in most cases offering full text access to finding aids and further directions for planning visits.

The New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, collects, preserves, and provides access to materials related to Black life in Africa and the African Diaspora (including the Americas). You can use the search tools listed above to start exploring the Schomburg's holdings. Five divisions comprise the center:

Poets House features an extensive, frequently updated library of poetry monographs and serials that can all be accessed onsite and viewed in their reading room, as well as audio and video recordings of poets. Search most of their holdings in the Poets House catalog.

Worldcat is a union catalog that brings together the collections of over 72,000 libraries around the world. Search here for items held in other libraries.


Finding Articles: Broad Databases

To search across a broad range of databases at once, start at the CLIO Articles tab. Use search facets to limit results, or select from the databases below.

Humanities Full Text features citations and abstracts from scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as lesser known specialized magazines.

JSTOR includes page images of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences, with a particular strength in Languages and Literatures. Coverage spans the mid-19th century to the present.

Project MUSE provides full text scholarly journal articles, with citations and abstracts, from key sources in the humanities, with a special strength in literary studies. Content is updated daily, and coverage is extremely current.

Proquest allows for cross searching of 80 databases in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Among those included: Alt-PressWatch, Arts and Humanities Full Text, GenderWatch, and MLA International Bibliography, as well as a substantial collection of scanned historical newspapers.


Finding Articles: Specialized Databases

America: History and Life covers the history and culture of the United States and Canada from 1450 to the present. Journals indexed run from 1964 to the present. You may wish to cross-search with Historical Abstracts, which covers world history outside of North America.

Black Studies Center combines Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, The HistoryMakers Videos and full transcripts for interviews with 100 contemporary African Americans, International Index to Black Periodicals (IIBP), historical black newspapers, Black Abolitionist Papers, and the Black Literature Index.


Ethnic News Watch has a full-text collection of newspapers, magazines and journals from ethnic, minority and indigenous press, dating back as far as 1959 to the present.


Gender Studies Database covers journals, conference papers, books, book chapters, government reports, theses and dissertations in Gender Studies.

MLA International Bibliography features citations and abstracts to scholarly articles on literature, language, linguistics, and folklore from around the world, with coverage from 1923 to the present.


Finding Primary Sources Not Necessarily Published in Books or Periodicals

ArchiveGrid allows researchers to explore materials held in over 1000 different archives, museums, libraries, and special collections. Use the search to discover finding aids for document collections in New York City and beyond. TIP: Well-written finding aids are often great places to find biographies for background information!

Barnard Archives and Special Collections acts as the final repository for materials pertaining to the history of Barnard College. The collection also includes a wealth of primary sources related to women's history, including the Overbury Collection, which features manuscripts and correspondence by many American women writers.

CLIO: Archives allows you to search for records and finding aids of archival materials held at the Columbia Libraries (Except for Barnard, see above link).

Digital Public Library of America serves as a portal to the digitized collections of various instutitions across the US, including millions of photographs, documents, books, audio materials, and moving images. The focus here is on images. You can search or browse items. 

Library of Congress allows a search across digitized materials from the Library of Congress, including materials previously included in American Memory. 

New York Public Library's Find Archival Materials searches archival collections across the library's research divisions, in most cases offering full text access to finding aids and further directions for planning visits.

Selected Digital Collections:


Finding Published Primary Source Materials.

Within CLIO, you might try searches in both the Catalog and Article tabs using date limits that correspond with the historical time frame you are researching. Otherwise, try searching within some of these databases and digital collections:

American Periodicals from the Center for Research Libraries features full-color scans of serials archived at the Center for Research Libraries. Sources span the 19th and early 20th centuries, and are fully searchable.

Black Studies Center  is a cross-searchable gateway to sources in Black Studies. The database combines Schomburg Studies on the Black Experience, The HistoryMakers Videos and full transcripts for interviews with 100 contemporary African Americans, International Index to Black Periodicals (coverage up to 2006), historical black newspapers, Black Abolitionist Papers, and the Black Literature Index.

British Periodicals provides scanned facsimile page images from British periodicals from the late 17th to the early 20th century. Fully searchable. Tip: To look for poems published in literary journals, select "poem" under the menu for "Document Type" under "Search Options."

Gale Newsvault combines several historical newspaper collections into one searchable platform.

Independent voices : an open access collection of an Alternative Press allows for browsing, search and access to digitized pages from magazines, newspapers, and journals of the alternative press collections of participating libraries in the US, Canada, and UK. These include periodicals produced by feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Hispanics, LGBT activists, the extreme right-wing press and alternative literary magazines during the latter half of the 20th century. The database is a work in progress, with a growing collection represented.

Periodicals Archive Online archives full text facsimile pages of articles from hundreds of journals in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Includes over 300 literary journals. Tip: Select "find journals by subject" to narrow down your search to a specific type of source.

Proquest Historical Newspapers and Historical Black Newspapers offers access to full-text and full-image articles from major American newspapers: Atlanta Constitution, Baltimore Sun (1837-1985), Boston Globe, Call and Post (1934-1991), Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor (1908-1997), Irish Times (1859-2009), Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Norfolk Journal and Guide (1921-2003), Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001), San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Scotsman (1817-1950) every page in PDF files. Remember to search on anachronistic terms. Historical Black Newspapers searches on full text and full-image articles from African American newspapers: Atlanta daily world, Los Angeles sentinel, New York Amsterdam news, Pittsburgh courier, and The Chicago defender.

World Newspaper Archive presents a searchable collection of historical newspapers around the world, with 19th and 20th century papers from Africa, Latin America, and South Asia represented. 



These specialized reference sources can be useful for topic overviews, background information, and investigation of special words/terms.

Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism includes almost 300 entries and subentries on critics and theorists, critical schools and movements, and literary criticism and theory in specific regions of the world across history. You can browse or search articles in full text. Each article features a bibliography of works cited, organized into two sections: “Primary Sources” and “Secondary Sources.”

OED Online provides an extensive historical record of the English language, with over 615,000 word forms with 139,900 pronunciations, 219,000 etymologies, and 2,436,600 quotations, along with timelines and a historical thesaurus. Use the thesaurus, in particular, to search for terms relevant to the time period you are researching.

Oxford Bibliographies offers thoroughly researched annotated bibliographies of scholarly sources on a wide range of topics across disciplines. You may wish to try searches for specific authors, literary movements, or historical periods.

Oxford Reference Online offers full text of 100 searchable reference tools, including subject dictionaries and mythology dictionaries.

Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Fourth Edition, 2012) features entries on history, movements, genres, rhetorical devices, critical terms, and other aspects of poetry and poetics. Includes bibliographies and cross-references, as well. 


Writing and Citing

The Craft of Research (electronic book) offers advice on all aspects and stages of the research process.

OWL: Purdue University Online Writing Lab provides general and subject specific writing tips and techniques, along with research advice and detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.

Zotero is a free and open-source citation management program that enables users to gather, organize, format, and share bibliographic citations with ease, from a variety of sources.