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English: Language and Literatures: Find Primary & Literary Works

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects

Tips on finding primary/historical sources

  • Know the date of the event or work you are researching.
  • Notice which dates are covered by the database you're using.
  • Terminology is often different in earlier times. E.g. Negro rather than Black, etc.
  • Types of publications may be unfamiliar to you: broadsides, conduct manuals, printed sermons, etc.
  • Many of these databases search the full-text and will retrieve a lot that may seem irrelevant because the words you searched are far apart in the document. Look under "help" in each database to see how to use "proximity operators" to keep words close together.
  • Examine the bibliographies in more recent works on your topic to see what historical sources were used.

Finding Primary Sources in the Library Catalog

Key source for 17th-C British history.  Photo by pobrecito33There are certain words that appear in the subject headings of items in the UM LIBRARIES CATALOG that constitute primary sources.  The most important of them is sources, but there are others.

In the simple keyword search box, you can put such words after SU: in order to specify the SUBJECT field.

ex.: crusades and SU:sources

In the advanced keyword search, you can put your search term(s) in the top box, and in the second box, put the word(s) you're using to locate primary sources in the next box, and change the drop-down menu to Subject:

Keywords that will help you find primary sources:

  • sources
  • correspondence
  • sermons
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • interviews
  • quotations
  • collections
  • speeches
  • manuscripts
  • archives

Depending on the period being studied, it can also be helpful to limit your search by publication date.

More keywords identifying primary sources in Library of Congress Subject Headings

To find the papers of a historically prominent individual, use the Advanced MERLIN Search.  Use the first line to specify the author (surname first, e.g., Jefferson, Thomas) and the second line to specify papers in the title.  You can also use the Advanced search to combine any of the above primary source oriented keywords with a particular author.

Finding Poetry

Literature Online has a wealth of poetry. You can browse the poetry collection, search the poetry collection by keyword, author, genre, etc. or watch videos of poets reading their works. To find poems published in journals, search "Criticism" and tick the box for "literary works".

Poetry Foundation

The MERLIN catalog sometimes lists poems published in recent books, but not always. Use these print indexes to find poetry by author, title, first line, or by topic and discover in which books or journals they've been published. Then look for the book or journal by title.

  • Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Collected and Selected Works (Ref. PN4784.W7 F58 1997)
    The main bibliography of poetry in English from all periods.  Indexes collections.  Check all editions for complete coverage.
  • Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Anthologies (Ref. PN1022 .F73 1997)
  • Granger's Index to Poetry (Ref. PN1022.H39, PN1022.G7)
  • Subject Index to Poetry (Ref. PN1021.B7)
  • Women's Poetry Index (Ref. PN1024 .G89 1985)
  • Chicorel Index to Poetry in Anthologies and Collections in Print (Ref. PN1022.C5 and Ref. PN1022. C54)
  • Poetry Index Annual: A Title, Author, and Subject Index to Poetry in Anthologies. (Ref. PN1022.P63)
    1989-1992  Reputedly more inclusive than Granger's
  • Index to Black Poetry (Ref. PS153.N5 C45)
  • Columbia Granger's Index to African-American Poetry (Ref. PS153.N5 C628 1999)
  • American Poetry Index: An Author and Title Index  to Poetry by Americans in Single-Author Collections (Ref. PS323.5.A43)
  • Roth's American Poetry Annual (Ref. PS580 .R68)
  • Index to Poetry by Black American Women  (Z1229.N39 C45 1986)
  • Index of American Periodical Verse (Ref. Z1231.P7 I47)
    1971-1978  Indexes poems published in about 200 little magazines.

Books Online

Manuscripts, Letters, Diaries & Archival Resources

Finding Short Stories

Literature Online provides online texts of many English and American literary works with a search mechanism to facilitate text analysis. From the main LION menu, choose Texts to search for words and phrases within a specific work or group of works. LION also lists literary works published in journals. To find these, choose Criticism and tick the box to limit to "literary works".

Google Book Search provides online full text of many books, including anthologies of short stories. There may be limitations on viewing pages published after 1923, but some short stories may fall within these limits.

Searching the Libraries' Discovery system for "Short Stories" as a subject heading, limited to UM books, results in a list of broad and specified collections of short stories based on time periods, geographic regions, cultures, and more.

The Short Story Index (Ref. Z5917.S5 C62) listing stories and showing where they have been published. You can also use this index to identify short stories by topic or theme.


Newspapers & Periodicals

Visual Resources