French Senior Seminar

Colette (1932)/ Agence Mondiale. via Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective research for the French Senior Seminar.

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

Personal Librarian

Vani Natarajan
106 Lefrak Center, Barnard Hall



Finding Books and Media Materials

CLIO provides access to the vast resources of the Columbia University Libraries, including Barnard Library, but excluding Teachers College and the Law Library. Search the Catalog for book and media materials.

Tips for entering searches:

  • When entering search terms, use the * symbol to search for variant spellings and endings. The asterisk stands in for one or more letters. For instance, narrati* searches for narratif, narration, narrative, narrativité, narratives, etc. 
  • If you're searching terms together as a phrase, surround them with quotes. For instance, "nouvelle vague."
  • Use Boolean operators (and, or, not) to search terms together. More on Boolean logic.

Tips for exploring results:

  • Use the facet boxes on the left hand side of the results page. These will help you narrow down results by format, publication date, author/creator name, location, language, subject heading, and more. 
  • When exploring an individual record for an item, like a book or film, reaqd the table of contents and summary (if available) to help you determine the relevance of a source to your research goals. 
  • Use linked subject headings in item records to try out new searches. 
  • Text or email the call number to yourself. 

If a resource is not currently available  at any of the Columbia Libraries, don't give up! You have options. 

It can also be helpful to explore beyond Columbia's collections:

  • Worldcatsearches libraries worldwide. Using Worldcat, you can quickly find out if an item might be available at the NYPL, or another academic library (if the latter, try Borrow Direct or ILL to request from off campus.
  • The NYPL catalog searches the circulating and non-circulating research collections at the New York Public Library. The Archives and Manuscripts search page allows for exploration of special collections, which include many collections of literary correspondence.


Reference Sources

Below, a selection of reference sources related to French and Francophone languages, literatures, histories, and cultures. To explore beyond this list, try searching in CLIO and limiting by language. 

Collins French Dictionary and Grammar (2014) covers grammar and key vocabulary, from English to French and French to English.

Dictionnaires d'Autrefois collects, in online format, a selected corpus of French dictionaries of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. You can search terms in individual dictionaries, or across multiple ones.

Diksyonè anglè kreyòl : English Kreyòl dictionary (1991)

Encyclopædia universalis presents scholarly reference articles, in French, on a wide variety of topics covering many areas of knowledge. Browseable as well as searchable, it also includes an atlas, dictionary, and médiathèque (containing visual and sound sources).

Grand Corpus des Dictionnaires allows researchers to search a selective corpus of dictionaries of the French language from the 9th through the 20th centuries, representing over 900,000 entries and their definitions.

Île en île, a project of the CUNY Graduate Center French program, presents biographical and bibliographical articles on over 200 writers from the Francophone world. Also offers extensive links to digital resources on Francophone art and culture in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Atlantic Ocean regions.

Le grand Robert de la langue française presents online one of the largest dictionaries of the French language, featuring hundreds of thousands of words and expressions; extensive definitions; citations with word usage; etymology; derivative words; and synonyms and antonyms.

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. Articles may be browsed or searched in full text. Each article features a bibliography of works cited, organized into two sections: “Primary Sources” and “Secondary Sources.”

Oxford Language Dictionaries Online provides a fully searchable bilingual French-English and English-French dictionary online, with supplementary resources in French language history, culture, and colloquialisms.

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


Journal Articles

CAIRN provides searchable full-text access to journals, magazines, books, reference sources, and reports in the humanities and social sciences---all sources in French.

EBSCOHost serves as a platform to several databases in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Examples:

Érudit provides access to Francophone and Canadian peer-reviewed journal articles, books, thesis papers, and other scholarly documents from North America.

Factiva is a searchable database providing access to global news from newspapers, newswires, and other media. Searches can be limited by language and place of publication.

HAPI , also known as Hispanic American Periodicals Index, features citations to articles and book reviews in scholarly journals published in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Francophone Carribean. Links to full-text are available for selected journals.

Liberation Journals Index provides citations from Francophone pan-African periodicals connected with liberation movements of the early and mid-twentieth century. Among those included: La Revue du Monde Noir, Légitime Défense, L’Étudiant Noir, Tropiques, and Présence Africaine.

Persee covers back issues of selected French journals and conference proceedings in the humanities and social sciences. Articles are searchable and available in full text.

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. Users may browse journals by title and discipline, and may also search articles by their assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Proquest combines 77 unique databases in one platform. You can search all at once, or select the databases you'd like to search. Some examples:

  • Arts and Humanities Full Text features citations and abstracts from scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as lesser known specialized magazines. Many of the entries are available in full text. Documents covered include articles, interviews, obituaries, bibliographies, original works of fiction, drama and poetry, book reviews, and reviews of performances, recordings, and films.
  • MLA International Bibliography features citations and abstracts to scholarly articles on literature, language, linguistics, and folklore from around the world, with e-links to possible full text provided. Sources include periodicals, books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations and bibliographies. Coverage spans 1923 to the present.
  • Periodicals Archive Online archives journals in the humanities and social sciences from around the world, in full text.


Digital Collections

Search these databases and digital repositories for access to literary texts, historical news articles, images, and other items that you might incorporate into your research as primary source material.

ARTFL, American Research on the Treasury of the French Language, presents digitized full text of classical French writings, among them philosophical treatises, poetry, journals, medieval manuscripts, writings by women, and dictionaries.

Caribbean Literature provides instant digital access to works of 19th and 20th century Caribbean poetry and fiction, with many in French. You can browse works by author, place, or genre, or conduct advanced or full text searches of works represented.

Corpus de la littérature médiévale des origines au 15e siècle

Digital Scriptorium presents scanned images from medieval and renaissance manuscripts, including sources in Old, Middle, and Modern French.

Electronic Enlightenment offers searchable and browseable access to access to the web of correspondence between Enlightenment era thinkers and writers and their families and friends, bankers and booksellers, patrons and publishers. Coverage includes letters and documents, document sources such as manuscripts and early printed editions, scholarly annotations, and links to biographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, newspapers, and other online resources.

European Library allows you to search, browse, and in many cases full access the resources of 49 different European national libraries. Objects include books, magazines, newspapers, journals, and audio recordings.

Europeana presents a searchable collection of image, text, sound, and video from libraries, museum, archives, and special collections in Europe.

Gallica: La Bibliotheque Numerique features electronic texts, images, maps, animation, and sound files of French, Francophone, and other publications in history, literature, science, philosophy, law, economics, and political science, maintained by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

HathiTrust is a large repository of digitized texts from research libraries and digitization initiatives such as the Google Books project and the Internet Archive. Many of these texts are in the public domain and fully viewable.

Réseau francophone numérique brings together digitized books, newspapers, journals, archives, maps and audiovisual documents from the Francophone world, with coverage of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North Africa, and North America.


Writing and Citing

The Craft of Research (ebook, University of Chicago Press, 2008) offers guidelines and tips on all stages of the research process, from turning topics and questions into research problems, choosing and engaging sources, assembling evidence, drafting, revising, and more.

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, open source program that allows you to quickly save, organize, format, and share your bibliographic citations. For extensive tips on installing and using Zotero, consult our Zotero Guide or the Zotero User Guide created by the program's developers.

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