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ENGL 400: Critical Procedures in Language and Literature: Find books

A guide to resources for students

About this page

Critpro students who need a refresher about how to use the Wardman Library catalog and/or the LINK+ interlibrary loan system should consider reading these sections in the Find books page of the general English language and literature LibGuide.

This page will describe briefly one strategy to locate books relevant to the themes, contexts, and literary critics and theorists that will be discussed in critpro.

Researching by subject

Seasoned researchers know they can use a library's catalog records to find books related to a given subject.

To start this process, first you must find a record for a book whose subject(s) are related, at least in part, to the subject(s) in which you are interested. You can find such a record by doing a simple keyword search in the library catalog, though a better way is to find the record for a book you already have in mind.

Let us presume I'm interested in the twentieth century critical reception of Heart of Darkness, and in particular postcolonial approaches to the novel.

Not knowing a thing about this subject, I examine the bibliography of a critical edition of Heart of Darkness, and make note of a few book-length studies that sound as if they might touch upon my subject.

It happens that Wardman Library holds two of the books from my list, and now I examine their records in the library catalog.   The first contains five subject headings with subdivisions that may be of use:


At this point, I can write down these subject headings to utilize in a subject search later, or I can actually click on any of the subjects that I think might be most useful.  When I click on "Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924 -- Political and social views," the resulting screen looks like this (detail):

I see there are six records with the subject heading "Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924 -- Political and social views."

I can click on this subject heading in order to display all of the records so described. Of course, not all of the six "Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924 -- Political and social views" books will be appropriate for my research interests, but I will be able to utilize the select few that are appropriate in order to read them, or to hone my research with additional subject headings.  And indeed, when I examine the record of one of the six books that looks paritcularly fitting (Terry Collits' Postcolonial Conrad: Paradoxes of Empire (London and New York: Routledge, 2005)), I note several additional subject headings:

Of course, clicking on any of the new subject headings will produce a new list of books, with potentially different subject headings that I might not have even thought of.

So, by continuing to note and/or click on the subject headings in the records of books I think will be most useful, I am able to refine the information I retrieve, and eventually compile a focused personal library that will inform my research.