Literature Research


To look for articles in journals, you will need to start with a research database. Check the Databases tab on the library home page and select the Literature subject limiter for the most appropriate available licensed resources. These provide full text or abstracts of articles from thousands of journals and other sources.

Some databases such as MLA do not offer full text of the articles. Use the Check SFX for Availability button to check our other resources for full text.


Not everything is available on the Internet, and as old-fashioned as it may seem, the best place to begin your research is in your library's collection -- Really! A lot of time and money is spent on collecting the best for your courses -- especially if you are feeling overwhelmed by the project. To search for books, you need to use a library catalog. Depending on how much time you have, you have a couple of options for extending your search.

CSUSM's Collection

Library Catalog
Search our local collection of about 250,000 books. How to Search the Catalog
The simplest way to get started is by using the default KEYWORD search. Type in one or two words about your topic (examples are: magical realism, postcolonial, feminist literature) to begin your search.

Once you have a list of results (these are book and journal titles), click on likely titles to view the entire record.

For more precise searching, look at the SUBJECTS on items that meet your research needs and follow those links to find other works on your topic that don't necessarily use the same terminology that you did in the keyword search. An example is a broad keyword search on feminist authors, with a large number of items (488!) returned on all sorts of women writers. Browsing the available subject headings shows more focused links such as: Feminism and literature (141 titles) or Feminist literary criticism (31 titles).

Other Options in Books

Circuit (1-3 day delivery)
Search the collections of other San Diego area libraries -- about 3,000,000 books. Find and request books directly online; pick them up at our Library in 1-3 days.

WorldCat (5-10 day delivery)
Search the collections of libraries world-wide -- about 52,000,000 books. Find a book in this database, and fill-out an Interlibrary Loan delivery request. Books will be delivered to Library for pickup.  

Browse the Book Stacks

Sometimes, just looking through the shelves can turn up works you would not have considered otherwise. Using the Library of Congress subject system, Literature is shelved in the P call number area. The Wikipedia online encyclopedia provides a list of the subclasses in the P area so you can see how this is organized.

Reference Books

These are a special category and while included in the library catalog, may NOT have the level of detail in the catalog record to really help you in finding what you need. This is where talking to a librarian will help you a lot!

One example are the literature criticism series published by Gale. There are over 20 different sets, that have new volumes added to the shelf at various times and thousands of authors and titles. How do you know where to look and what is in each series that might be helpful to you? The library catalog cannot provide that level of detail, so use the online (and free) GALE LITERARY INDEX that allows you to search by name, work's title, or custom settings (nationality, birth year, etc.) The search results will list every Gale series that has your research topic. Then you just need to find what the location (call number) is for the sets owned by CSUSM and refer to the volume numbers you found in the index. A librarian knows about these tools and tricks and can help you find and use them!

An addition (summer 2010) to our database collection is Gale Literature Online that allows searching and full-text retrieval of a number of the Gale sets. This collection is not everything that CSUSM carries, but the most highly-used sets. Check our Databases for access to this resource.

Online Resources

CSUSM LTWR home page
CSUSM Writing Center

Other quality resources on the web

Free Fulltext

Tutorials and Tools  



  • provides free access to reference, verse, fiction and non-fiction works
  • Elements of Style (Strunk, 1918, 1999 through
  • Gale Literary Index a free-access index to the contents of the Gale Group Publishers collections of literary criticism and biographical information (Dictionary of Literary Criticism, Nineteenth Century Criticism and much more)

Citing Your Sources

As you write your papers in LTWR courses, you'll need to cite passages and ideas from the sources you've found. You may find the following sites useful to supplement Keys for Writers and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.

Professional Resources

Literary Market Place
Listings for publishers, agents, manufacturers and other businesses associated with publishing. Free users have access to partial content of the full resource found in Library Reference at PN161 .L5

Writer's Market
Similar to LMP with more orientation to the writer, rather than publisher. Of special note are tips to novice and experienced professional writers and a glossary of terms used in the writing profession (See "encyclopedia" link.) (Full resource in Library Reference at PN161 .W83)

Organizations, Listervs and Blogs