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Welcome to the English Research Guide! Here, you will find a comprehensive collection of print and electronic resources specifically for English that are provided through Laurentian Library services. Use the links on the left to locate and access a variety of useful tools to assist you with your information needs.
To learn more about the library and its resources and how you can exploit them to your advantage, register in the Research Skills Tutorial on D2L. There are several sections in the tutorial with a short quiz at the end of each; at the end you will receive a Certificate of Completion. Many professors require you to take this tutorial--and once you finish it, you can save your certificate to reprint as often as necessary.
In the fall, the library hosts live Orientation tours as well as Zotero classes which you can sign up for at the library's entrance, and even after the formal schedule is finished, we are very happy to put on special classes at the request of at least 5 students. If you would like to arrange a special class, or you think your course would benefit from some in-class library instruction, please ask your professor to contact the librarian responsible for your faculty to set up some sessions.
Help with a Paper
We are available to help you throughout the academic year. If you would like to arrange for an individual appointment, please e-mail Mr. Maley with a requested date and time, and a brief description of your project.
In the library: The Library User Assistance Desk to your immediate left as you enter the library is a good place to start.
By email: Email the librarian responsible for your faculty for a reply during regular working hours.
By telephone: 705-675-4800, or toll free at 1-800-661-1058, ext. 2
For Distance Education students: Telephone: 1-800-661-1058, ext. 2 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Quick Tips on Preparing For Research
Before you start:
- understand the key terms you may be using as well as the general area that interests you;
- think about ways to narrow your topic, making it as specific as possible (unless you have been given a specific topic to research!);
- create a thesis statement;
- list the main concepts (key words) included in your thesis statement (research question), then based on your readings;
- find as many synonyms as you can for each main concept. You are now ready to start searching in the library's catalogue and databases.
When you are looking for definitions or if you don’t know much about a specific subject, reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopedias become invaluable because they contain relatively short—and accessible—articles. These articles often lay out the parameters of a subject and can assist you in trying to narrow your topic. Often such articles are accompanied by lists of readings (bibliographies) which allow you to explore your topic further.
The Oxford English Dictionary is the most comprehensive dictionary of the English language in part becuase it includes words as they first entered the language and any change in their meanings over time.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms provides clear, concise, and often witty definitions of the most troublesome literary terms from abjection to zeugma.
Encyclopedias for English
Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada: This encyclopedia discusses literature in English and French, and also in such other languages as Yiddish, Spanish, Haida and Cree; authors and their work; related literary and social issues; professional institutions that play a role in the lives of Canadian writers; and the major historical and cultural events that have shaped Canada. (print)
Literature Resource Centre: Includes critical essays, work and topic overviews, full-text works, biographies, and more to provide a wealth of information on authors, their works, and literary movements. Researchers at all levels will find the information they need, with content covering all genres and disciplines, all time periods and all parts of the world. (online)
The Oxford Companion to English Literature: This comprehensive encyclopedia provides coverage of all aspects of English literature - from writers, their works, and the historical and cultural context in which they wrote, to critics, literary theory, and allusions. (print)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature: This encyclopedia provides a comprehensive overview of major American writers and literary works. It is browsable alphabetically and searchable. (online)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature: This encyclopedia covers the entire history of literature in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in the major literary languages (Anglo-Saxon, English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, and Latin). It includes substantial accounts of individual authors (e.g., Spenser, Pope, Austen) and detailed histories of particular themes, movements, genres, and institutions, whose impact upon the writing or the reading of literature was significant (e.g., The Stationers' Company, the sonnet, the ‘School of Night,’ or the Sublime). (online)
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature: This award-winning encyclopedia presents a comprehensive collection of entries on children’s literature from all around the world with an emphasis on themes, trends, authors/illustrators, and traditions. (online)
Why Use Books?
- Books are extremely valuable resources when doing in-depth research on a topic! Authors have hundreds of pages to give detailed explanations and background information surrounding the various facets of your research interest.
- Using this kind of in-depth information will make it easier to form a research question or thesis statement (or even spark your inspiration)
- The bibliographies found in books are extensive, and will point you to other resources to add to your own resource list.
- Remember: scholars write journal articles under the assumption that you already have a relatively thorough understanding of the topic – this means that you will likely not find the foundational information needed for your topic in the beginning stages of your research process. In this sense, books become indispensable
Searching the Catalogue
The catalogue is your primary tool for finding books in the J.N. Desmarais Library. You can also use the catalogue to find other materials, including government publications and journals (the journals themselves--not individual articles).
You can search the catalogue by:
- Journal Title
When you know the book you are searching for, pick Title or Author; when you are searching for a topic, start with Keyword unless you know the exact Subject heading describing your topic.
More on searching the Catalogue is available in Module 5 of the Research Skills Tutorial in D2L.
E-books are located in two different places:
- Some may be located by using the library’s catalogue. These records will have [electronic resource] in the title.
- E-books can also be located by searching in e-book collections. Searching in these collections is the same as searching in a database.
Recommended E-Book Collections
Ebook Central (close to 40,000 e-books in multiple subject areas)
Scholars Portal E-Books (over 250,000 e-books in multiple subject areas. Select Full Text Only to find only those e-books with full text)
In addition to books, you may wish to search for book-length Master's theses or Ph.D dissertations.
Best bet: Dissertations and Theses (ProQuest).
If you are also looking for recent theses or dissertations produced by Laurentian graduates, check out our Research Repository - LUZONE. Note that since 2013, before graduation all Masters and Doctoral candidates MUST deposit their theses or dissertations in this repository.
Articles: Quick Tips
The databases to the right provide references to many scholarly journal articles and papers.
- Start off with keyword searches expressing your topic. Keyword searching crosses all fields.
- Use Search Operators such as "OR" and "AND" to expand or reduce your results.
- Review those items that look relevant, then, exploit the details within those entries to help lead you to other relevant articles.
- Pay attention to the subject headings (often called "descriptors") to see how the database describes your topic and use them to find related articles.
- Find other papers written by the same author; these will typically be on similar subjects.
- Follow citation trails: other articles that have cited this article will probably be on a related subject and will include citations to other articles of interest.
- For more Secrets of Searching a Database, review that section in How to Research Like a Librarian.
Peer Review is the evaluation of creative work by scholars in the same field in order to maintain or enhance the quality of the work in that field.
In the case of peer reviewed journals, which are usually academic, peer review generally refers to the evaluation of the articles in them prior to publication. For more, check out this definition of peer review.
- To ascertain whether a journal is peer reviewed, consult Ulrichsweb.
Fun Bonus: Understanding Shakespeare
Pick a Shakespearean play. Click a line. Instantly see articles on JSTOR that reference the line OR visit Shakespeare Documented a large and authoritative collection of primary-source materials documenting the life of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), bringing together all known manuscript and print references to Shakespeare, his works, and additional references to his family, in his lifetime and shortly thereafter.
Getting Articles @ Laurentian
In any database, when you see an article that interests you, click on it and, unless the article is available within the database itself, within the record you will see an image that says "Get it @ Laurentian":
When you click on that, you will arrive at a menu which will lead to an electronic copy of the article you want, or, if not available electronically, to Laurentian's catalogue which will allow you to check if the article is available in print in the library, and if not, to a final link which allows you to order the item through Interlibrary loan.
Need a Film Not in Laurentian's Online Film Collections?
Consult: Watmedia (Provincial Multi-media Catalogue). Material held by Laurentian may be signed out in the library. To order a film not available at Laurentian, please email LUFilmLibrary@laurentian.ca and specify the date(s) you require the item.
Questions: Please contact Ashley Thomson who manages the Intrafilm Project.
Literature Online: Texts
Literature Online contains poetry, drama, and prose from 600 AD up to and including the twentieth century. It also contains a selection of regional and national literature. Recent texts are often not available due to copyright restructions.
Early Canadiana Online: contains over 80,000 rare books, magazines and government publications from the 1600s to the 1940s. Included in the Canadian Literature section are 875 works of fiction, drama, songs, and poetry, as well as biography, travel literature and exploration accounts. This section is comprised of books published from 1697 to 1900, and from a variety of countries (Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland)
Improving Your Writing
Learning to write in academia is extremely important as you advance through your university career. The online resources below will assist you in developing your thesis/ideas, structuring your essay, writing critically, and improving your writing style.
One of the best sources is Perdue University's OWL Writing Lab. Here you will not only find subject-specific guides to writing but also guides to the major citation styles, including MLA.
Properly citing your sources is an extremely valuable and necessary skill when completing your research. Below are a few resources to help you correctly format your bibliography in MLA style.
For more on MLA, please consult the library's Citation and Style guide.
is a free, web-based citation manager that allows you to:
- Directly import references from article databases, the library catalogue, e-book collections, etc.
- Manage and organize your references.
- Create a bibliography.
- Share your references with others
- Add in-text citation and a bibliography directly into your assignment
Connect to Zotero
Getting started with Zotero:
- Follow this Zotero Guide specially prepared for Laurentian Users by Ashley Thomson (Sept. 2020)
- Contact the librarian supporting your faculty.
- Sign up for library workshops when available.
- View Quick Start Guide (video) or Tutorials (videos)
- Consult one of Zotero's own User Guides or McMaster University's Quick Start Guide or the Zotero Guide by Ontario Tech University