MLA International Bibliography Advanced Search Guide

The MLA International Bibliography indexes scholarly articles, books, and dissertations on literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore. Suggested below are several strategies you can use when searching in MLA. Please bear in mind that there are limits to each approach. To make sure your results are comprehensive, try different types of searches.

For items about an author

In Subjects—All or Author as Subject, enter the author’s name, and click on search.

  • last name then first name, e.g. Kafka, Franz, or
  • last name (only if it’s unique), e.g. Kerouac

Due to pseudonyms and variant spellings, the name you entered might not be the preferred subject term used by MLA. For example, if you do a search for carroll lewis, you’ll find very few records since items about “Lewis Carroll” are listed under “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.” To find out if the name you entered is the preferred subject term, on the result page, click on the full record icon. Look for the author’s name under Author as Subject. If the name appears to be different from what you entered, click on that name, select it on the Thesaurus: Related Terms page, which will appear in Subjects—All, and click on search.

For items about a literary work

For a work written in English, enter its title in Subjects—All or Author’s work, and click on search. If the title is not unique, e.g. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, A Journey by Edith Wharton, enter the author’s name in the Author as Subject box and the title in Author’s Work box.

For works written in languages other than English, use their original titles whenever possible. Translated titles are not treated consistently in MLA. While some are listed under both their original titles and English translations (e.g. Cien años de soledad or One Hundred Years of Solitude), some are only listed under their original titles (e.g. Un Coeur Simple not A Simple Heart). If you are not sure which title to use, use the select from—thesaurus feature. If you don’t remember the full title, enter in Subjects—All a word or two from the original title, add the author name, e.g. coeur and Flaubert, and click on search. On the result page, click on the full record icon . Under Author’s Work, click on the title of the work, select it, and click on search.

Note: The author’s work as subject search is still quite limited due to the fact that literary titles were generally not included in subject lists until 1980. Try other types of searches, including author as subject.

If you are looking for items about a film, click on Advanced Search, enter the word “film” in the Performance medium field, and type in the title of the film in Subjects—All or Author’s work.

For items about a national literature

Enter your search term in Subjects—All or National Literature under Advanced Search, or use the select from thesaurus feature to select a national literature, click on search. This search is more effective if combined with a time period or topic. For example, if you are interested in finding criticism related to the portrayal of marriage in nineteenth century Chinese literature, enter marriage and Chinese literature in Subjects—All.

For items about a literary character

Enter your search term in Subjects—All or use the select from thesaurus feature to find the term. For example, if you are looking for items about the treatment of Miss Marple in Agatha Christie’s detective stories, you can type in Marple, Miss Jane. The character’s name will appear under literary theme (see below) as (treatment of) Marple, Miss Jane (character).

Note: The literary character as subject search is still quite limited due to the fact that literary characters were generally not included in subject lists until 1980. Try other types of searches, including author as subject.

For items about a literary theme

Enter your term in Subjects—All or Literary Theme (Advanced Search), or use the select from thesaurus feature to find the term. For example, if you’re looking for items about the treatment of mental illness, enter the phrase, and click on search. You can enter multiple terms using “or” to connect them or select multiple terms on the thesaurus page, e.g. absent father or abandoned children.

Note: The literary theme as subject search is still quite limited due to the fact that literary themes were generally not included in subject lists until 1980. Try other types of searches, including author as subject.

For items about literary influence

Enter you search terms in Subjects –all or Literary Influence under Advanced Search, or use the select from thesaurus feature to find the term. If the term is used, you will notice in the record it appears as, e.g. (influence of) Pound, Ezra.

Note: The literary influence as subject search is still quite limited due to the fact that literary influences were not included in subject lists until 1980. Try other types of searches, including author as subject.