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English Literatures: Search Strategies

A guide to research resources for English, American, and Anglophone world literature.

Searching by Subject

While your default in searching may be to search using keywords, you may find that your results are either too numerous or not specific enough.

To help you run targeted searches on particular topics, library catalogs and databases frequently include subject headings (also known as descriptors or tags) to describe the intellectual contents of a particular book, article, or film.

Ultimately, knowing how to search with subjects will both save you time and produce more relevant results.

The subject headings listed below include some of the most important types of subject headings for literary studies.

Sample Subject Headings

Type

Form

Example

Author as Subject

Last name, First name

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett

National/Regional Literature

Nationality/Region + Literature

English literature

Irish literature

African literature (English)

Caribbean literature (English)

Literary Themes

Theme + in literature

Psychoanalysis in literature

Literature + theme

Literature - psychology

Theme + and literature

Psychoanalysis and literature

Literary Genre

Nationality + genre

English drama

English fiction

English poetry

English prose literature

Period History

Nation + history + time period

Great Britain -- History -- 19th century

Great Britain -- History -- Victoria, 1837-1901

Reading Call Numbers

PR
Read the first line in alphabetical order:
A, B, BF, C, D... L, LA, LB, LC, M, ML...

851
Read the second line as a whole number:
1, 2, 3, 45, 100, 101, 1000, 2000, 2430...

.P74
The third line is a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, e.g.:
.F64 = .64, .C724 = .724

Note: Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.

2000
The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order:
1843, 1972, 2010…

Book title: The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel: From Richardson to George Eliot

Author: Leah Price

In the catalog: PR851 .P74 2000

On the book spine:

What is the MLA International Bibliography?

Names as Subjects in the MLA International Bibliography