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English Research Guide

Find research and resources relevant to English Studies, including literature and linguistics, creative writing, and rhetoric, composition and pedagogy.

Search Tips

Not sure how to construct the right kind of search for finding literary criticism?  Try to focus your search on three keyword concepts:  Author, Text, and Topic.  See examples below.

  • Use the author's last name.
  • Use any pseudonyms, pen names, or spelling variations.
  • Shakespeare
  • Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • H.G. Wells (Herbert George Wells)
  • Use the partial or full text title.
  • Put the title in quotation marks.
  • "The Scarlet Letter"
  • "Kubla Kahn"
Topic Use a topic related to your central argument, such as:
  • Specific characters
  • Technique
  • Symbols
  • Genre
  • Theme
  • Theory
  • Lady Macbeth, Jay Gatsby
  • metaphor, narration, dialogue
  • roses, doors, light
  • sonnet, prose, criticism
  • gender, identity, relationships, sexuality
  • feminist, pscyhoanalytic

Then, think about how you can combine your keywords using AND or OR.

So how does this translate?  Let's say you were writing a paper about race in Shakespeare's Othello.  Some of the searches you could try include:

  • Shakespeare AND Othello AND racism
  • Othello AND colonialism
  • Iago AND (jealousy OR envy)

Combining Search Terms

In an "Advanced Search" option, you can connect search terms the following ways:

AND - narrows your search results by looking for two (or more) keywords at the same time.
Example:  "Milton" AND "elegy" gets results that include both terms.

OR - expands your search results by searching for more than one keyword at a time.
Example: "theatre" OR "theater" searches for results that include either term (helping you get results for variant spellings or synonymous keywords).

NOT - narrows your search results by excluding specific words from your results.
Example: "Milton" NOT "poetic structure" will return results that mention Milton, but do not mention "poetic structure." This option helps you eliminate irrelevant results from your search results.

Tip: use ONE search term per search box.

Quotation Marks

Use these to limit your search to an exact phrase.

Example: "Jane Eyre" limits your search to the exact name Jane Eyre. (**Try Googling your name, or your professor's name, with and without question marks around the name).


You can use truncation to search for all the endings of a word in one search. Most search tools use the asterisk (*), but some use and exclamation point (!) or dollar sign ($). Check the help function if your search isn't working.

Example: Shakespear* searches for Shakespear, Shakespeare, Shakespearean, Shakespeare's, etc.


A wildcard lets you search for different letters in a word. This can be useful to search for plurals and alternate spellings. A question mark is used in place of the letter.

Example: "wom?n" searches for "woman," "women," and "womyn."