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					Guide to the MLA (Modern Language Association of America)
International Bibliography


1.        Introduction
2.        Accessing the MLA database
3.        The MLA database home page
4.        Using the Standard search page
5.        Combining and truncating search terms
6.        Working with results
7.        Using the „Get it!‟ button
8.        Refining results
9.        Marking and saving bibliographic records
10.       Book, book chapter or journal article?

1. Introduction

The MLA database is an index covering English and modern foreign languages,
literatures, folklores and linguistics, and contains around two million records of books,
book chapters, journal articles and dissertations from 1926 onwards. It is an
invaluable research tool in these subject areas.

2. Accessing the MLA database

From the Library home page ( click on the „Articles and
databases‟ tab in the Quick search section. In the „Find database by title‟ search box,
enter „MLA‟.

If you wish to use the MLA away from the University, please follow this link about
accessing electronic library resources off-site. Please contact the library‟s IT service
desk ( for further help about this.
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3. The MLA database home page

You will now see the MLA home page. A list of links is displayed on the left of the
screen. Three of these are particularly useful to you:

         Search: allows you to perform searches of the MLA
         Information centre: contains a demonstration of the database
         Help: detailed help screens which will support you in your searches of the
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4. Using the Standard search page

Having clicked Search, you will see the standard search page:

Figure 1: The standard search screen (detail)

The standard search function will usually be flexible enough for most searching
purposes. There are several search boxes that can be used:

      For very broad searches, use the Keyword(s) search box
      Use the Title keyword(s) box to find criticism with a specific word in its title
      Use the Subject field to limit your search to a particular subject (either Author
       as subject, Author‟s work or both)
      Use the Document author field to search for work written by a particular critic
      The Journal field can be used to limit the search to a particular journal title
      Searches can be further limited by using the language, publication year and
       format boxes
      Search terms can be used in more than one box to further refine results

The links to “Select from a list” and “Select from thesaurus” to the right of the search
boxes allow you to check whether the term you wish to use is in the indexes of the
database. You can also select terms to use from these functions.

Example: search for documents about tragedy in the works of Friedrich Schiller. Limit
the dates of publication of the documents to 1975 onwards.

      Enter “tragedy” into the Keyword(s) search box
      In the Author as subject search box, enter “Schiller”. Use the “Select from
       thesaurus” link to ensure that you are searching for the correct Schiller
      Change the date in the first Publication year box to 1975
      Ensure that the All box is ticked in the Limit to section
      Press Search
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5. Combining and truncating search terms

You can search for more than one keyword at a time by combining search terms:
    tragedy OR comedy will retrieve results containing either search term
    tragedy AND comedy will retrieve results containing both search terms
    tragedy NOT comedy will retrieve results containing tragedy but not comedy

You can truncate terms by using an asterisk: trag* will retrieve records containing the
keyword tragic, tragedy and so on.

To search for variant spellings of a word, for example color/colour, use a question
mark: colo?r will retrieve records containing the keyword color or colour.

To search for an exact phrase, use speech marks around the phrase, for example
“arts and crafts movement” or “silver age”.

NB!! It is possible to search for the title of a work in a foreign language or in its
translated form, for instance “Voina i mir” or “War and peace”. You may well retrieve
more results if you use the original form.

Beware of using anglicised variants of authors‟ names in languages such as Russian.
For example, “Dostoevsky, Fyodor” will retrieve fewer results than “Dostoevskii,
Fedor Mikhailovich”. To check different forms of a name used in entries on the MLA,
enter a variant into the „Author as subject‟ search box and click „Select from

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6. Working with results

A list of relevant bibliographic records will be displayed. The most recently published
results will be displayed first.
                                                                              Get it! symbol
                                                                              allows you to see
                                                                              whether you have
                                                                              access to the
                                                                              publication in


Figure 2: list of results (detail)
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7. Using the ‘Get it!’ button

The „Get it!‟ button        under each record allows you to see whether you have
access to the book, journal article or other material in question. Clicking the Get it!
button will open a new window.

          Go to online journal article here

                                                                    Go to library
                                                                    catalogue to check for
                                                                    printed version here

Figure 3: Get it! result screen example (detail)

In this example, you will notice that it is possible to link to the full text of the journal
article. To do this, click the „Go‟ icon     beside either of the first two records. You
can also check to see if a print version of the article is available from the University‟s
libraries by clicking       beside the bottom link.
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8. Refining results

       Click on the Modify search link at the top of the list of results page
       Enter new search terms or remove unwanted terms as necessary

9. Marking and saving bibliographic records

At the left of each record is a box. By ticking this you will mark the record. Marking a
record allows you to save it for later use.

       Once you have ticked the boxes next to the records you wish to save, scroll to
        the top of the page and click on the Marked list link
       You will now see three options:
             o Email records
             o Print records
             o Download citations
       If you are using the Email records option, you can choose between short
        records and long citations, and you can opt to see messages in plain text or
      If you are using the Download citations option, you can either save the
       records you have marked to a file, or you can export them to EndNote, a
       bibliographical management program.
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10. Book, book chapter or journal article?

The MLA covers several formats of publication: books; book chapters; journal articles
and dissertations, and you need to differentiate between these in your bibliography.
The simplest way to check the format of a result is to click on the title which will
reveal the format in the „Publication Type‟ field.
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Damien McManus (
July 2011

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