MLA International Bibliography Database

A guide for using the MLA (Modern Languages Association) Bibliography database, which searches more than 7,100 periodicals in the areas of literature, language, linguistics, and folklore.

How to Search MLA

Advanced Search

The opening search page of the MLA International Bibliography database is actually Advanced Search. This search mode is the most effective way to search MLA.  It provides three search bars so that you can search for multiple key terms at once:

Constructing a Search

Your choice of search terms will affect the quality of your results. Think about your topic and determine the strongest and simplest words. Enclose a phrase in quotation marks to search the terms together, as a phrase. MLA Advanced Search allows you to search within fields, such as authorabstractjournal titlesubject, literary theme, and others. If no selection is made, all fields are searched.

A very simple search, for the title of a work - "catcher in the rye" in TI  returns 144 results. This search is probably too broad and without much real value on its own. It is helpful to have another search term to create a more refined set of results. A theoretical or critical term related to the work you're researching is a good choice. The Catcher in the Rye is, fundamentally, a book about adolescence, and so that term can be used in the search. NOTE: we used truncation in the form of an asterisk - * when entering "adolescen". Think of the asterisk as meaning "and, anything afterwards." This allows the search to include adolescentadolescents, or adolescence. Adding this and searching again returns 12 results.

You can also apply different limits to your search, including by Publication Date, Publication Type, Language, Genre, and Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals (see the sidebar). 

After you type in your search terms and click on the Search button, you see a list of results:

These results will include citation records for journal articles, books, and book chapters. Journal articles may  or may not be available in full text--if they are, then you will see HTML Full Text and PDF Full Text icons, as shown in the above example, or (not shown here) Linked Full Text. Citations for book chapters and books will not have full-text links, so to find them, click on the  button to search all Library holdings. 

When you click the GET ARTICLE icon, the link searches for the item throughout the library's resources - primarily, our other databases. Several things may happen when you click GET ARTICLE, including being taken to the full text of the article in another database.

In the example, here, in result #2, when you click GET ARTICLE you are taken to the Central Piedmont Community College website. You need to notice the Fall 2016 article date in the citation. On the website, you can then browse to the Fall 2016 issue and access the PDF of the article.

Basic Search

Basic Search is a simple search that you can access through the "Basic Search" link below the Advanced Search bars. We strongly recommend that you use Advanced Search, but if you're overwhelmed by all of the options, select Basic SearchIn Basic Search, you can type in one key phrase, title, or author, and choose to limit by Pubication Date, Linked Full-Text only, Language, or Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals.

More Search Tips

Using the Thesaurus

  • At the top of the EBSCO interface, there is a blue bar with a variety of different tools. On the left, next to "New Search," is a link to MLA's thesaurus. Here you can search for Subject Terms used by the database. To begin, try entering words that might be related to your topic.

  • You can specify the type of search you want to do by clicking on the radio buttons next to "Term Begins With," "Term Contain," or "Relevancy Ranked."
  • Once you've clicked on a word or phrase, it will display Broader Terms, Narrower Terms, Related Terms, and Used For.



Using Subject Terms and General Subject Terms

  • First, check the thesaurus to discover what words MLA uses to describe what you're interested in. You can use these terms to find all of the other items that have also been assigned those words as subjects.
  • If you're unable to find a heading in the thesaurus that matches your topic, try doing a keyword search.  This will return many more results than a subject search, but not all will be related to what you're interested in.
  • When you find an item that looks relevant, look to see what Subject Terms have been assigned to it.
  • In addition to Subject Terms, MLA also breaks down each item into General Subject Terms. These include the subject literature, the period, the primary subject author, and the genre. In some cases, an item will have multiple sets of General Subject Terms, as in this example. You can use these General Subject terms in much the same way as the Subject Terms, to bring together all of the items that share that subject.