Home | My Account | Sitemap | Ask a Librarian
University of Texas Libraries
Celebrating the Life
Explore & Refine Your Research Question
Background resources give you a general overview of your topic that will help you learn about concepts, vocabulary, and formative events related to your texts. Understanding these basic building blocks will make it easier to define a research question and build good keyword searches to search for critical analysis in the Catalog, databases, and indexes. Here are some good places to start:
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library. Search 100+ subject encyclopedias online to build your understanding of the historical, cultural, and formal context of a work.
  • American National Biography. Find detailed biographical sketches of and detailed publication history for U.S. authors.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography. Find outlines of authors' careers including bibliographies and connections with historical events.
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB). Find detailed biographical sketches of and detailed publication history for British authors.
  • Catalog. Find contextual resources by using Keyword Search to search for encyclopedias or bibliographies in ebook or print format. For example: (latina* OR latino*) NEAR literat* AND (encyclo* OR bibliogr*).
Brainstorm and Use Keywords
How can you make the best use of your time and find the best materials? 
Start by identifying the different threads in your research question. For each of these threads, brainstorm multiple keywords, including synonyms and related terms. This keyword tool lets you brainstorm online and send the results to yourself.

 Use search strategies to combine and use these keywords.
  • Combine keywords using AND and OR:
    • AND narrows your search by looking for articles with all of the words. For example: gothic AND racial
    • OR broadens your search by looking for articles with any of the words. For example: banned OR controversial OR censored
  • Use "quotation marks" to search for a phrase. For example: "graphic novel"
  • Use (parentheses) to include variations on a single part or your search. For example: (banned OR censored) AND fiction
  • Think of your search terms like math equations: "teaching or teachers and literature" will not bring back the same results as "(teaching or teachers) and literature"
  • Try truncating words and using a wildcard* (often the asterisk) to find multiple endings. For example, searching for wom* will bring back woman, woman's, women, and women's... and also wombat. Be strategic about how you use this to define your search.
Find Literary Scholarhip & Primary Texts
For literary scholarship & primary texts, take a look at the catalog, indexes, & databases on the English Literature Research Guide:
www.lib.utexas.edu > Research Tools > Research by SubjectEnglish Literature RG (Research Guide)

What other fields relate to your research question? Check out other Research Guides by Subject for useful databases and tips.
www.lib.utexas.edu > Research Tools > Research by Subject

Where is the article, chapter, book, or other material?
  1. Does the Catalog or database record you have found include full text? (Look for an HTML or PDF link.)
  2. If not, does the record have a  button?
    • If yes, click the button to see if we have access to the electronic or print versions.
    • If not, copy the title of the journal or book (not the article or chapter) and use the Library Catalog title search.
  3. Can't find the text in electronic or print library material? Ask for help or request it through InterLibrary Services.
Evaluate Sources
Use these grids and decision trees to choose the best sources.
Try Advanced Research Tips
Check out the search tools for your database or index; these are usually found behind a help link, a question mark box, or a gear image.
  • Try proximity searching, check the help link to find out how your database understands proximity searching, it could look like some of these or other vocabulary: W/5 or WITHIN 5 or NEAR, BEFORE, etc.
Use InterLibrary Services to borrow from other libraries materials we don't have.
Use clipboard, folder, or similar functions to hold onto citations and email them to yourself.
Use RSS feed options to keep you updated on material additions that fit your search.
Use citation buttons to export citations in the correct style.
Get Help
Contact your librarian:

Kristen Hogan
English Literature & 
Women's & Gender Studies Librarian
English Literature Research Guide

IM a Librarian
Monday-Thursday, 10am - midnight
Friday, 10am - 4pm
Sunday, 6pm - midnight
Research Skills Refreshers
Need a refresher on basic research skills? Check out the UT Libraries resources for undergraduates: www.lib.utexas.edu > Resources for You > Undergraduates

Find text and videos to help you when you need to:
Find Background Information
Generate Keywords
Find Articles
Find Books
& More