Literary Research Guide/G

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Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts

Serial bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts (print and electronic) that are published or updated at regular intervals are important resources for literature and language scholars since they guide researchers to the most recent scholarship. At the first stage of a project, researchers should identify the pertinent serial bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts; become thoroughly familiar with their scope, limitations, taxonomy, and record structure; master the advanced search interface (especially any strategy that allows identification of records added since a previous search); and plan to search each at intervals. The best of the electronic resources allow users to save searches for running at regular intervals and offer an alert service that generates e-mail notices when new records related to a search are added. Unfortunately, many specialized serial bibliographies and indexes have been discontinued during the last decade because of financial constraints, the inability to move from print to electronic form, or the unfounded assumption that the presence of such electronic bibliographical behemoths as WorldCat (E225) or MLAIB (G335) and Internet search engines have rendered more specialized bibliographies obsolete.

This section includes works covering more than one national literature or discipline. Works devoted to a single national literature or subject appear in appropriate sections of the Guide. Although there is considerable overlapping among the following sources, each—because of its scope, organization, or indexing features—cites studies omitted from or not readily accessible in the others. (The extent of duplication in literature serial bibliographies has never been satisfactorily established. The existing studies are based on seriously flawed methodologies and an inadequate grasp of the scope, editorial principles, and taxonomies of the major bibliographies. See, for example, Lewis Sawin, “The Integrated Bibliography for English Studies: Plan and Project,” Pennsylvania Library Association Bulletin 19 [Feb. 1964]: 7–19; Abigail A. Loomis, “Dickens Duplications: A Study of Overlap in Serial Bibliographies in Literature,” RQ 25.3 [1986]: 348–55.)

Bibliographies of Bibliographies[edit]


Wortman, William A. A Guide to Serial Bibliographies for Modern Literatures. 2nd ed. New York: MLA, 1995. 333 pp. Z6519.W67 [PN695] 016.805.

A guide to serial bibliographies published separately or in journals (generally excluding those that ceased publication before c. 1960). Organized in divisions for comprehensive bibliographies and general indexes, literatures in English, non-English literatures, subjects, and authors, the 777 titles include bibliographies for periods, genres, subjects, themes, and literature-related topics (such as psychology, music, art, and religion). Many sections are preceded by a helpful evaluative overview. A typical annotation briefly describes basic organization and scope (users should note that Wortman uses the term comprehensive in reference to breadth of coverage rather than thoroughness [see p. 6]), but discontinued bibliographies are not always identified. Additions and corrections are no longer listed at, and the return of these updates is questionable. Wortman is the best source for identifying specialized serial bibliographies that are frequently more extensive in coverage than—or at least essential supplements to—comparable parts of standard general works such as MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340).

Bibliographic Index (D145) lists new serial bibliographies as well as a number of discontinued ones omitted by Wortman. Richard A. Gray, comp., Serial Bibliographies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Ann Arbor: Pierian, 1969; 345 pp.), covers philosophy, religion, the social sciences, language, the arts, history, and literature, but is now outdated.


Balay, Robert. Early Periodical Indexes: Bibliographies and Indexes of Literature Published in Periodicals before 1900. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2000. 315 pp. Z6941.B35 [PN4801] 011′.34.

An annotated bibliography of approximately 400 indexes and bibliographies, print and electronic and dating from 1790 to 1999, that index periodicals published before 1900. The scope is international, but resources in Western European languages predominate. Entries are organized in six divisions: general works, humanities (with sections on language and literature), history and area studies, social and behavioral sciences, science and technology, and library and information sciences. Annotations fully describe scope, content, and organization; establish the relation to other resources; and are exacting in evaluations. Four indexes: authors; titles; subjects; dates of coverage. Drawing on the author’s extensive experience as a reference librarian who frequently dealt with the vexing question of how to identify the contents of periodicals before 1900, Early Periodical Indexes is an invaluable guide.

Serial Bibliographies[edit]

Surveys of Research[edit]

Surveys of research are important resources for keeping abreast of scholarship on a national literature, literary period, genre, or author. Over the long term, such surveys are valuable for tracing fluctuations in the academic reputation of an author, work, critical approach, or theory. The best are judiciously evaluative essays by established scholars who place a study within a critical tradition; the worst are strings of uncritical descriptions of whatever came the reviewer’s way.


Year’s Work in English Studies (YWES). Oxford: Oxford Journals–Oxford UP for the English Assn., 1921– . Annual. PE58.E6 820.9. <>. Updated regularly.

A selective, evaluative review of scholarship on English, American, and some other literatures in English. Coverage of American literature began in vol. 35 (for 1954); a chapter on African, Caribbean, and Canadian literature in English was added in vol. 63 (for 1982) and expanded to include Australian, New Zealand, and Indian literature in vol. 64 (for 1983) and South Pacific literature in vol. 81 (2000). In vol. 85 (for 2004) Indian literature was expanded to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka. Each volume is organized by individual essays devoted to periods, national literatures, major authors (Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton [Milton and poetry, 1603–1680 or 1603–1660 since vol. 80 (for 1999)]), the English language, and bibliography and textual criticism. Some volumes include chapters on reference works, literary history, and literary theory (with coverage of the last now relegated to Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory [U6133]). The scope of some chapters varies over the years.

Coverage is necessarily selective (sometimes erratic, idiosyncratic, or restricted because of the unavailability of works) and emphasizes Anglo-American scholarship. The quality, objectivity, rigor of evaluation, and breadth of individual chapters vary, depending on the contributor(s), but most attempt to evaluate judiciously the most significant scholarship. To offer representative coverage of the steadily increasing number of studies, contributors in recent volumes tend to be more succinct in discussing an individual work. Citations to books and articles do not include complete bibliographical information until vol. 68 (for 1987). A volume now appears about a year after the year of scholarship it covers; the classified list of books received for future review lasted only from vol. 64 (for 1983) through vol. 73 (for 1992). The online version, which includes all volumes, publishes chapters as they are edited and typeset. Two indexes: critics; subjects and literary authors. Since vol. 47 (for 1966) the subject indexing has been more detailed and includes titles of literary works.

Chapters have been reproduced in three collections (published in 1998 by Blackwell [Oxford] for the English Assn.): A Critical Bibliography of American Literature Studies, 4 vols. (covering 1964–94); A Critical Bibliography of Twentieth-Century Literature Studies, 4 vols. (covering 1964–94); and A Critical Bibliography of English Language Studies, 3 vols. (covering 1939–94). Other than convenience, the only value of the series is that each Critical Bibliography is cumulatively indexed.

Because it offers the most comprehensive evaluative survey of important studies, YWES can be an invaluable guide to significant scholarship (particularly in English literature; American Literary Scholarship [Q3265] provides more exhaustive coverage of American literature). In vols. 66–69 (for 1985–88), the year’s best books and articles are identified in a separate list. Together, the annual volumes offer an incomparable record of scholarly and critical trends as well as of the fluctuations of academic reputations of literary works and authors.

Literature Bibliographies[edit]


MLA International Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Modern Languages and Literatures (MLAIB; sometimes called PMLA Bibliography). New York: MLA, 1922–2009. Annual. Z7006.M64 016.8. <>.

A classified bibliography of literary, linguistic, and folklore scholarship published in print or electronically, although print publication ceased in 2009. Its scope is extensive: all human languages (living and dead) and many invented ones; all literatures (except classical Greek and Latin, which are covered in L’année philologique [S4890]); all aspects of folklore; and, beginning in the volume for 2000, rhetoric and composition and the teaching of all aspects of language and literature. Although many bibliographies listed in this Guide offer more exhaustive coverage of a single literature, period, genre, or subject, many achieve their superiority by relying heavily on the MLAIB, and none approaches its breadth and few its currency.

Effective use of the Bibliography requires close familiarity with the many alterations over the years in editorial policy, scope, and organization. Because of the extensive changes instituted with the 1981 Bibliography and the general similarity of the organization of the earlier volumes, a separate consideration of the two periods is appropriate.

MLAIB for 1921–80. Originally titled the “American Bibliography,” published in essay format, nominally limited to scholarship by Americans, and covering English, Romance, Germanic, and American languages and literatures, the bibliography gradually expanded its scope to cover other literatures and languages, and to become “international” in the volume for 1956. Volumes covering 1921–68 were published as a part of PMLA; however, many libraries will have these volumes in the separate reprints published by Kraus or New York University Press. With the 1969 volume the Bibliography became a separate publication issued in four parts (each with its separate index of scholars). Pt. 1: General, English, American, Medieval and Neo-Latin, and Celtic Literatures; pt. 2: General Romance, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Brazilian, Romanian, General Germanic, German, Netherlandic, Scandinavian, Modern Greek, Asian, African, and East European Literatures; pt. 3: Linguistics; pt. 4: ACTFL Annual Bibliography on Pedagogy in Foreign Languages. (Most libraries will have the bound library edition.) In the 1970 volume, Folklore became a separate section in pt. 1; pt. 4 was discontinued after the 1972 MLAIB.

The continual expansion was accompanied by numerous changes in the organization of sections and refinements in the classification of entries (especially in the bibliographies for 1926, 1928, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1967, and 1969); consequently, users must be certain to check the table of contents at the beginning of each volume. In general, scholarship on literary works is organized by national literature, then (after a general section) by period, and then by genre and literary author; some literatures, however, are grouped by language rather than geography (e.g., Cornish and Welsh are under Celtic Literatures; French-Canadian and West Indian are listed with French Literature). Studies not assignable to a national literature, general discussions of themes or genres, and works about criticism and theory are listed in the General Literature section (which for many years also served as a catchall and included several national literatures, folklore, and general linguistics). Folklore scholarship is classified by broad topics (e.g., Folk Poetry, Folk Games and Toys, Material Culture), then by types (e.g., Folk Poetry includes headings for Oral Epics, Ballads, Songs, and Rhymes and Verses), and then continent. (Folklore scholarship appears in the various national literature divisions through the volume for 1927 and in the General division in the volumes for 1928–68; even after Folklore became a separate division, several national literatures continued to include a Folklore section.) The Linguistics part includes classified sections for linguistic topics (e.g., Theoretical and Descriptive Linguistics includes a subdivision for Grammar, which is further subdivided into General and Miscellaneous, Morphophonemics, Morphology, Syntax, Word Classes and Categories, and Discourse Analysis) and language groups (subdivided by specific languages, with further subdivisions for General Studies, Bibliography, Dialectology, Graphemics, Lexis, Morphology, Onomastics, Phonology, Semantics, Stylistics, Syntax, and Translation). Until the volume for 1967 (which marks the beginning of systematic coverage of linguistic studies), linguistic scholarship was included with individual languages; general linguistic studies were listed in the General section.

A publication is listed only once in each part, with up to five cross-references; any work that requires more is relegated, without cross-references, to the most appropriate general heading (e.g., a book on several English plays, medieval through modern, would usually be listed only under Drama in the General section of the English Literature division; an article surveying plays from several national literatures would usually appear only under Drama in the General IV: Themes and Types section). Thus scholars must be certain to search appropriate general sections.

Most journals and series are cited by acronyms keyed to the Master List of Periodicals found at the front of each part. (Serials on the Master List are fully described in MLA Directory of Periodicals [K615].) Essays from a collection or Festschrift (identifiable by a bracketed number preceded by F) are keyed to the Festschriften and Other Analyzed Collections entries at the beginning of each part. In the volumes for 1970–75, an asterisk preceding an entry number means that an abstract is printed in the corresponding volume of MLA Abstracts of Articles in Scholarly Journals (New York: MLA, 1972–77, annual); these abstracts have been added to the MLAIB database. Indexed by scholars’ names in most volumes since 1948.

MLAIB for 1981–2008. Since the introduction of a sophisticated computerized classification and indexing system in the volume for 1981, the Bibliography has been published in five parts (with variations in some titles). Pt. 1: British and Irish, Breton, Commonwealth, English Caribbean, and American Literatures; pt. 2: European, Asian, African, and Latin American Literatures; pt. 3: Linguistics; pt. 4: General Literature, Humanities, Teaching of Literature, and Rhetoric and Composition; pt. 5: Folklore. Most libraries will subscribe to the library edition, which includes all five parts and comprehensive scholar and subject indexes. National literature sections are classified chronologically in pts. 1 and 2; depending on the scholarship covered in a volume, chronological spans range from a single century to several centuries. For example, a book on English drama from the Renaissance to the modern period would appear in a division headed “English Literature/1500–1999”; an article on Black Mountain poets would appear in “American Literature/1900–1999.” Chronological divisions encompassing more than a century include subdivisions for general studies and genres; those limited to a century or, for some literatures, a broader early period (e.g., Old English, medieval, Old Russian, Ch’ing Dynasty period) are further classified by literary author. Individual authors have subdivisions for general studies, bibliographies, genres, and literary works. In general, the post-1980 volumes are more consistent than their predecessors in distinguishing national literatures. The remaining inconsistencies—for example, there are no separate sections for Swiss or Austrian literature—are generally ameliorated by the national literature headings in the subject index.

Studies on general literature and related topics are currently classified in pt. 4 under fifteen broad divisions: General Literature, Comparative Literature, Humanities, Research Tools, Bibliographical, Censorship, Dramatic Arts, Figures of Speech, Genres, Literary Forms, Literary Movements, Literary Theory and Criticism, Themes and Figures, Teaching of Literature, Rhetoric and Composition. Each includes appropriate subdivisions, again depending on the nature of the scholarship covered in a given volume (e.g., the Poetry subdivision of the Genres division might include headings for Concrete Poetry, Elegy, Haiku, Lyric Poetry, and Prose Poem).

Linguistic scholarship is organized by broad topics (Linguistics, History of Linguistics, Theory of Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Areal Linguistics, Comparative Linguistics, Diachronic Linguistics, Language Interaction, Mathematical Linguistics, Paralinguistics, Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics, Teaching of Linguistics), by aspects of language (Dialectology, Grammar, Lexicology, Morphology, Morphophonology, Onomastics, Phonetics, Phonology, Pragmatics, Prosody, Semantics, Stylistics, Syntax, Translation, Writing Systems), and by specific language. Each section includes appropriate divisions and subdivisions (e.g., Sociolinguistics has subdivisions for Ethnolinguistics, Language Attitudes, Language Policy, Social Dialects, and Speech Registers; Stylistics has a subdivision for Rhetoric). Folklore studies are listed in pt. 5 under general studies and under headings for History and Study of Folklore, Folk Literature, Ethnomusicology, Folk Belief Systems, Folk Rituals, and Material Culture. Each is subdivided by type or genre and then by geographic area (continent, region, country); for example, Folk Literature has subdivisions for Folk Speech Play, Folk Narrative, and Folk Poetry (the last with headings for such forms as ballad, epic, and folk song).

A study is listed only once in each part; there are no cross-references in the classified listings, since the subject index provides access to related authors, genres, or subjects. Acronyms are still used for most journal and series titles, but an entry for an essay from a collection provides full bibliographical information (and thus does away with the [F] numbers that mystified so many users of the pre-1981 bibliography). Since index terms are printed within brackets following a citation, researchers can usually get some sense of the content of a study.

Of most benefit is the subject indexing made possible by the new system. Each separately published part or combination thereof includes self-contained subject and scholar indexes, but for comprehensive searches users must consult the integrated indexes to the library edition. All searches should begin with the subject index because the classified listings include no cross-references. The subject index provides access to literary authors, genres, groups, themes, literary movements, motifs, literary characters, theories, critics, scholars, linguistic features, techniques (such as characterization, allusion), languages, folklore genres, literary features (e.g., structure, point of view), and processes (e.g., textual revision). In addition, the subject index provides access to national literatures that do not have their own sections in the classified listings as well as literatures that do not fall within the primary language of a given country. For example, literature in Spanish by American writers is found under the heading Spanish-Language Literature; all medieval Latin references can be located as a group in the subject index under Latin-Language Literature. Similar principles apply to Yiddish-language literature, French-language literature (e.g., in Africa), and English-language literature (e.g., in India and South Africa). Each subject heading is followed by the citations in which it appears. Since each citation prints its full list of subject terms, a user can frequently judge the probable relevance of a book or article before looking it up in the classified listing. Many subject headings also refer users to related headings.

MLAIB Database. The MLAIB database includes the records in the volumes for 1926 to the present as well as additional ones derived from the indexing of JSTOR’s language and literature journals back to the 1880s. Including 2,393,445 records (as of 24 January 2012), the database is available online through EBSCO (I512), Gale Literature Resource Center (I528), InfoTrac (G387a), and ProQuest (I519 and through Literature Online [I527]). For a comparison of features offered by these distributors, see; users should note many of these features are modified over time. For an evaluation of the individual search interfaces, see the entries above. The database is updated ten times a year, and, since 1981, entries are retrievable by several groups of terms only through the database—terms that are too numerous to list in a printed subject index, such as edition, interview, and various scholarly approaches (e.g., biographical). The MLA’s How to Use the Bibliography ( explains how to perform searches, includes a table of field codes used by vendors (, and provides links to vendors’ guides. Users must be aware that a distributor’s search interface will determine how the database can be searched, affect the number of records that a search returns, and govern how search results appear and can be manipulated. For an instructive overview of how distributor packaging of the MLAIB Database can affect searching, see Aline Soules and Liorah Golomb, “Navigating the MLA Bibliography: Performance across Vendor Platforms,” Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship 21.2 (2009): 141–62;

The lack of subject indexing has always been a major impediment to the use of the print volumes for 1921 through 1980. However, free text searching of the database makes some subject access possible for entries from 1926 on (e.g., searchers can retrieve all studies with “Joyce” and “Ulysses” in their respective titles or that have been classified under Irish Literature/1900–1999/Joyce, James).

Online searching of post-1980 entries offers some advantages (besides speed) over manual searches of the printed classified listings and subject indexes. Using combinations of descriptors (e.g., codes for genre, literary technique, theme, place, or time period), a researcher can narrow a search to various levels (e.g., one could quickly isolate journal articles written in English between 1982 and 1985 and employing an archetypal approach to Joyce’s use of the journey motif in Ulysses). Searching journal articles improved in 2008, when MLAIB began including abstracts provided by some publishers. Although some descriptors were added and classification discrepancies resolved when listings from 1926 through 1980 were added to the database, online searching of these entries will never allow the flexibility and specificity possible with post-1980 citations. Those using the online file should watch the MLA Web site for updates on search techniques or consult the guides associated with the vendor interfaces.

Despite the dramatic increase in accessibility to the post-1980 listings, a search of the printed subject indexes or online file must sometimes be supplemented by a reading of appropriate sections in the classified volumes. Although the number of index terms has grown steadily each year, many broad studies can be described in only the most general terms, and some publications, lacking a thesis or any discernible focus, cannot be given any descriptors. Subject indexing, at its best, is an imperfect art. A book or essay usually requires an MLA bibliographer to choose among a range of indexing possibilities, and no two people are likely to index any but the most straightforward study in the same way.

No reference work of this magnitude, especially one that relies heavily in its earlier years on a network of volunteer contributors, is without its limitations and faults. Before 1956 the Bibliography was generally (but never completely, as some descriptions erroneously assert) restricted to scholarship by American authors. Although it became “international” in 1956 and includes books, essays from edited collections, journal articles, review essays (but not reviews), scholarly Web sites, and published abstracts of dissertations, coverage has never been exhaustive. The classification system—sometimes maddeningly quirky and inconsistent—requires considerable time to master. (For a discussion of inconsistencies involving literatures in English, see Reed Way Dasenbrock, “English Department Geography: Interpreting the MLA Bibliography,” Pedagogy Is Politics: Literary Theory and Critical Teaching, ed. Maria-Regina Kecht [Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1992] 193–214. However, the solutions proposed in the article would result in an unwieldy classification scheme and are largely obviated by the subject index and the wide electronic dissemination of the Bibliography.) Until 1981 there is no convenient way of determining what serials listed in the Master List of Periodicals are actually covered in a given volume; in the bibliographies since that for 1989, an asterisk preceding an acronym in the Master List denotes that at least one issue of the journal or volume in the series is indexed (those with access to the database can search by journal and year to determine which volumes were actually covered); issues of journals whose coverage lapses for a year or more are frequently left unanalyzed. New journals are not always added in a timely manner; when they are, retrospective coverage is haphazard. For coverage of single-author monographs, which is particularly weak, researchers should rely instead on WorldCat (E225); for an analysis of one year’s coverage of single-author monographs, see James L. Harner, Letter to the Editor, MLA Newsletter 34.3 (2002): 18. Access to (but not the coverage of) the content of single-author monographs has improved with the introduction of a searchable table of contents field beginning with records added in 2003. For suggestions about how the MLAIB can redress some weaknesses in coverage, see Harner, “Some Suggestions for the Future of the MLA International Bibliography,” Bibliography in Literature, Folklore, Language, and Linguistics: Essays on the Status of the Field, ed. David William Foster and James R. Kelly (Jefferson: McFarland, 2003) 153–60. Since MLA bibliographers must usually have a work in hand before listing it, studies are overlooked or entered years after publication. And there are the inevitable number of outright errors. Yet no researcher can afford to ignore the MLAIB.

The most detailed critique of the print and electronic versions of MLAIB and comparison of coverage with ABELL is offered by Jost Hindersmann, MLAIB und ABELL: Periodische Fachbibliographien, CD-ROM- und Online-Datenbanken zur Anglistik, Anglistik/Amerikanistik 4 (Münster: Lit, 1997; 93 pp.), with an English summary in Horst Weinstock, ed., English and American Studies in German 1997: Summaries of Theses and Monographs. A Supplement to Anglia (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1998) 52–54; Hindersmann’s discussion of the CD-ROM version is updated in a review in Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie 44.4 (1997): 439–42. See also Stebelman, “Retrieval Performance and Citation Characteristics of the MLA International Bibliography and the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature: A Comparative Study” (G340a). For a comparison of MLAIB and ABELL, see the following entry.

Although the MLAIB is frequently the single most valuable aid to research, its coverage must be supplemented with other serial bibliographies and reference works. For a documentation of this necessity, see Charles A. Carpenter, “Tracking Down Shaw Studies: The Effective Use of Printed and Online Bibliographical Sources,” Shaw 25 (2005): 165–78.


Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL; sometimes called MHRA Bibliography). Modern Humanities Research Association. Chadwyck-Healey–ProQuest, 1997– . 11 Oct. 2012. <>. Updated nine times per year.

Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature. London: Mod. Humanities Research Assn., 1921– . Annual. Z2011.M69 016.82. <>.

An international bibliography of scholarship about the English language and literatures in English (British, American, Canadian, Australian, African, Asian); recent volumes also cover selectively film, travel writing, and cultural studies. Although a number of subdivisions have been added, deleted, or combined over the years (especially in vols. 48 [for 1973], 51 [for 1976], and 60 [for 1985]), the scope and basic organization have remained fairly stable (although coverage of unpublished dissertations was discontinued with 75 [for 2000]). Entries are currently organized in divisions for bibliography; scholarly method and resources (incorporating the division formerly for language, literature, and the computer); newspapers and other periodicals; English language; traditional culture, folklore, and folklife; English literature; cinema, broadcasting, and interactive media (added in vol. 84 [for 2009]; in earlier volumes, these were subsections under the twentieth- and twenty-first-century sections). The English literature division has sections for general studies and periods (Old English, Middle English and fifteenth century, then by century), with subsections for general studies, genres, children’s literature, biography and autobiography, literary theory, related studies, and individual authors. Entries are efficiently cross-referenced, and uninformative titles are occasionally glossed. When searching for reviews, users must remember that a book is relisted only in the first section in which it originally appeared; e.g., a book on Shakespeare’s language, originally classified in the Literary Stylistics and Poetics section, would, in subsequent volumes, appear only in that section (without cross-references and without inclusion in the subject index). Beginning with vol. 66 (for 1991) the Sources and Abbreviations list includes only those serials actually searched; an asterisk denotes a title from which an item was indexed. Two indexes: authors and film directors; scholars. Coverage is reasonably thorough (indeed, it improves markedly with vol. 66 [for 1991]); the editors have embarked on a retrospective indexing program going back to 1991 (works published before 2003 will appear only in the database since bound volumes are at capacity). The broad subject classifications, failure to distinguish among national literatures (the sections for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are particularly unwieldy), and inadequate subject indexing (essentially listings of the classification and author heads) make the print version a cumbersome work to search for studies other than those restricted to a specific author.

Fortunately, the online version (which includes records since 1892) substantially improves the accessibility of ABELL. The electronic version allows searches by keyword (that is, any word in the database), title keyword, subject, document author or reviewer, publication details (including series title), journal, ISBN, ISSN, date (and combinations of the preceding fields); searches can be limited to the latest update, articles, books, and reviews. Records—which are sorted by year (descending), then alphabetically by author (ascending)—can be marked for e-mailing, downloading, or printing, and citations can be exported into several kinds of bibliographic software; however, users should note that marked records are sorted chronologically in ascending order, then alphabetically in descending order. Entries for reviews of a book are not conflated; thus searchers must sometimes work through several entries to identify all the reviews included. And, since it is not possible to limit a search by accession number or update code, users must frequently read through the full list of records to identify those added since a previous search on the same subject.

The more detailed classification system, subject indexing in recent volumes, and greater flexibility of online access render MLAIB (G335) a more efficient source to search for post-1980 publications; for publications before 1980, the electronic versions of ABELL and MLAIB offer essentially equivalent accessibility. Regardless of where one begins, any search of MLAIB must be complemented by a search of ABELL, and vice versa, for each volume or update of these two resources includes scores of works omitted from the other, a fact underscored by Scott Stebelman, “Retrieval Performance and Citation Characteristics of the MLA International Bibliography and the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature: A Comparative Study,” Journal of Documentation 56.3 (2000): 332–40, and Hindersmann, MLAIB und ABELL: Periodische Fachbibliographien, CD-ROM- und Online-Datenbanken zur Anglistik (G335a), who offer the most thorough critique of the overlap between the two works (although Stebelman’s data is skewed by failing to consider the effect of the greater level of indexing in MLAIB and although Hindersmann was able to evaluate only the obsolete telnet version of the electronic ABELL). Precise comparison of coverage of areas common to the two serial bibliographies is difficult because of differences in scope, level of indexing, and organization. Comparing the number of entries in similar sections is an invalid measure, since ABELL numbers separately all cross-references and entries for books reviewed and does not distinguish among national literatures in literary period sections; comparing the number of hits a search generates is equally invalid because of the greater level of indexing in MLAIB. Before 1956—when MLAIB was generally restricted to scholarship by American authors—the duplication is frequently quite low. Although recent volumes of MLAIB are overall more comprehensive than ABELL in their common areas of coverage, ABELL lists British theses until vol. 75 (for 2000; only those abstracted in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses [H465] are indexed in MLAIB) and reviews (however, coverage of reviews is not thorough even within issues of journals indexed; MLAIB includes only some review essays); its coverage of books published solely in Great Britain and smaller British journals is superior; and it includes a selective list of related studies for each historical period. Used together, ABELL and MLAIB will lead researchers to the bulk of scholarship since 1921 on the English language and literatures in English. (ProQuest [I519] is the only distributor that allows cross-searching of ABELL and MLAIB and thus provides a basis for a detailed study of overlap between the two databases.)


FRANCIS. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated monthly.

Francis bulletin signalétique, 523: Histoire et sciences de la littérature. Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy: Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique, 1947–94. Former titles: Bulletin analytique (1947–55); Bulletin signalétique: Philosophie, sciences humaines (1956–60); Bulletin signalétique C (19–24): Sciences humaines (1961–68). Z6513.B82 800.

A database of articles from journals (currently about 4,300) and edited collections that are devoted to the humanities, linguistics, social sciences, and history of art. Since 1988, the literature portion has focused on English- and French-language literatures, comparative literature, and literary theory and history; before 1988 coverage extended to European as well as to non-English-language South American and African literatures. Most North American users will access FRANCIS through EBSCO (I512), Ovid (, or ProQuest (I519); the database includes records since the volume for 1972. Records include bibliographical information, a brief summary in French or English, and a list of indexing terms (in English and French). The CNRS and EBSCO sites include records since 1972; coverage in the FirstSearch file and the CD-ROM begins with 1984. For earlier studies, users will have to consult the print version, which organizes entries in three extensively classified divisions: general studies, sciences of literature (including literary theory, genre studies, and comparative literature), history of literature (with sections for general studies, literary periods and movements, and national literatures). Four indexes: subjects; literary authors and anonymous works; scholars and critics; journals listed. Although especially useful for its coverage of French publications and subject indexing (which frequently cites only passing mention of a subject or literary author and sometimes employs terms that are too general), FRANCIS is much less comprehensive and current than MLAIB (G335) and (for British and American literature) ABELL (G340).


Literature and Language Bibliographies from the American Year Book . 1910–1919. Introd. and indexes by Arnold N. Rzepecki. Ann Arbor: Pierian, 1970. 259 pp. Cumulated Bibliog. Ser. 1. Z7001.L57 [P121] 016.41.

A convenient reprint of the annual surveys, useful now because they cover a period before publication of MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340). The highly selective essay reviews, restricted largely to American scholarship, cover classical and European languages and literatures. The American literature sections treat creative, rather than scholarly, works. The one-page subject index lists only literature and language divisions; the “Personal Name and Main Entry” index, contrary to its title, includes only scholars, literary authors, and an occasional anonymous work.

See also[edit]

“Check List of Explication” (L1255a).

Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (U6015).

General Bibliographies[edit]

Although the following indexes are much less extensive in their coverage of language and literature studies, their interdisciplinary scope and subject indexing make them important complements to MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340).


Humanities International Complete. EBSCOhost. Whitston-EBSCO, 2013. 19 Mar. 2013. <>. (Also available in Humanities Source [I512].)

A bibliographic database of articles and creative works (primarily in English) in about 3,300 journals (overall), with full text for several titles. The database incorporates and continues American Humanities Index (AHI) (Albany: Whitston, 1976–2004), which was not limited to American journals or subjects and whose focus was overwhelmingly on literature. Except for a few little magazines and author newsletters, periodicals covered in AHI are more adequately indexed by the other serial bibliographies. (AHI’s claim that “most of the journals and magazines in the AHI are not indexed elsewhere, or are found only in indexing services not universally available” is inaccurate.) With the move to electronic-only publication, a substantial number of journals has been added (including more nonliterary ones) along with a few books (although the basis for their inclusion is unclear), abstracts are provided, citation indexing for full-text records is added, and the subject indexing is improved. Humanities International Complete uses the standard EBSCO interface (see entry I512). The extensive duplication with other databases and imprecise, superficial subject indexing of many early records rank Humanities International Complete among the least satisfactory indexes in this section.


Arts and Humanities Citation Index, [1976– ] (AHCI). Philadelphia: Thomson Reuters, 1978– . Semiannual, with some annual cumulations and an expanded quinquennial one covering 1975–79 (14 vols., 1987). AI3.A63 016.05. Online through Web of Science ( and updated weekly; CD-ROM, released 3/yr.

Subject, author, and citation indexes to journals (currently about 6,100) and a few books in archaeology, dance, history, music, architecture, film, language, philosophy, art, television, radio, linguistics, theater, classics, folklore, religion, and literature. (An additional several thousand journals surveyed for Science Citation Index [1961– ] and Social Sciences Citation Index [1966– ] are selectively covered.) The contents of AHCI are indexed in four ways:

  1. The Source Index, to which entries in the other three indexes are keyed, is a first-author-only list of articles, reviews, notes, illustrations, letters, and creative works. Each entry includes basic publication information, the author’s address (a useful feature for those wishing to request an offprint), and a list of works cited. The latter sometimes indicates the focus of an article and yields sources relevant to its topic.
  2. The Permuterm Subject Index indexes keywords in titles of entries in the Source Index. Although “title enrichment terms” are added for uninformative titles, the value of this part as a subject index is restricted because of the reliance on title words for index terms.
  3. The Citation Index lists (by author or artist) books, articles, dissertations, reviews, works of art, music, and films mentioned in the text, notes, or bibliography of works in the Source Index. Thus users can identify (a) scholarship relevant to a topic by locating studies that cite a pertinent book or article; (b) discussions of literary authors buried in vaguely titled or broad studies. Because indexers do not discriminate between passing references and substantial discussions, users frequently will waste time tracking down insignificant citations (especially in the case of a major, frequently cited author). Also, the uncritical reliance on endnotes and footnotes results in numerous misattributions and variant titles.
  4. The Corporate Index, which lists authors in the Source Index by organizational affiliation (e.g., a department in a university), is useful principally when a researcher knows that a particular organization is involved in work relevant to a search.

The numerous errors and false leads, very small print, abbreviated entries and cross-references, the use of initials for first and middle names, and the need to refer continually to the Source Index make AHCI a cumbersome, time-consuming work to use.

Access to the post-1974 records in the AHCI database (which includes a substantial number of items not in the print version and abstracts beginning in 1999) is offered by the Web of Science search interface. (In the CD-ROM, coverage begins with 1990.) This search interface offers three options: Search (which allows a keyword search of a combination of such fields as topic, title, author [type the last name first], corporate author, editor, journal or book title, DOI, date of publication, conference name, language, document type, funding agency, grant number, and author’s affiliation), Cited Reference Search (cited author, cited work, and cited date), and Advanced Search (a command-line search screen). All searches must be in English. Because authors are usually identified by surname and initial(s), searchers should use the Author Finder tab to narrow an author search. Search results can be limited by date and by one or more of the five citation databases that make up Web of Science, sorted in a variety of ways (e.g., date, title, author), and marked for printing, e-mailing, or saving. Searches can be saved as alerts.

Index to Social Sciences and Humanities Proceedings (ISSHP) (1980– , quarterly, with annual cumulation; online through Web of Science; CD-ROM, with coverage beginning in 1991) indexes the published proceedings of conferences, seminars, and symposia by author or editor, topic, permuterm subject, sponsor, and geographic area. Volumes are needlessly swollen by the inclusion of journal articles derived from conference papers and already indexed in AHCI.

Although AHCI and ISSHP represent a largely unsuccessful attempt to apply science and social science indexing practices to the humanities, they occasionally uncover important discussions of individuals buried in obscurely titled articles or in journals and conference proceedings in other disciplines. Review: Sandy Petrey, French Review 54.1 (1980): 117–21.


BHI: British Humanities Index. ProQuest. CSA-ProQuest, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated monthly.

British Humanities Index (BHI). Ann Arbor: ProQuest, 1963– . Quarterly, with annual cumulation and author index. AI3.B7 011′.34.

A subject index to about 370 British and Commonwealth periodicals and newspapers that continues Subject Index to Periodicals (1915–62). Beginning with the volume for 1990, most titles are followed by a brief description of contents, which in subsequent volumes is a full abstract. Starting with the volume for 1993, entries appear under a single subject heading, now followed by a subject and author index. Records in the electronic version, which includes publications since 1962, can be searched through the ProQuest search interface (see entry I519 for a discussion of search options). In addition, searchers can browse the BHI thesaurus. BHI is useful because of its good subject indexing, abstracts, and inclusion of some publications (mostly weeklies and newspapers) not covered by other bibliographies in this section.


Essay and General Literature Index (EGLI). New York: Wilson, 1931–2011. Semiannual, with annual, quinquennial, and larger cumulations extending coverage to 1900. AI3.E752 080.1′6. <>. Updated daily.

Essay and General Literature Index Retrospective: 1900–1984. EBSCOhost. EBSCO–H. W. Wilson, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>.

An author and subject index to essays and chapters in books—both single-author volumes and edited collections—and some annual publications, with emphasis on the humanities and social sciences. Entries for literary authors include works by and about a writer (with the latter classified by literary work). Books indexed are listed in the back of each issue; a cumulative list was published in 1972 (Essay and General Literature Index: Works Indexed, 1900–1969 [New York: Wilson, 1972; 437 pp.]). The monthly newsletter—New Titles Elected for Essay and General Literature Index—mentioned in some volumes of the print version is no longer being published. Although highly selective and limited to English-language publications, EGLI is the only serial bibliography devoted to the indexing of chapters of books and essays in a collection by a single author. (In 2003, the MLAIB began including a searchable table of contents field in records for single-author monographs.) It is also a good source for locating a reprint of an essay. Entries since January 1900 can be searched in the electronic versions. See entry I512 for an evaluation of the EBSCO search interface. EBSCO plans to introduce a search field that will allow users to identify records added within a date range.

For discussions of authors that occupy only a portion (at least six pages) of a chapter in a single-author monograph or of an essay in an edited collection, see Richard E. Combs and Nancy R. Owen, Authors: Critical and Biographical References, 2nd ed. (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1993; 478 pp.). Although limited to English-language books and lacking any discernable rationale for the selection of works, Authors is the only reference identifying discussions of authors buried within many of the 1,158 volumes indexed.

English-language books before 1900 are indexed by subject in the “A. L. A.” Index: An Index to General Literature: Bibliographical, Historical, and Literary Essays and Sketches, Reports and Publications of Boards and Societies Dealing with Education, Health, Labor, Charities, and Corrections, Etc., Etc., 2nd ed., by William I. Fletcher (Boston: Amer. Lib. Assn., 1901; 679 pp.). Some of the books in the Supplement, 1900–1910 (Chicago: Amer. Lib. Assn., 1914; 223 pp.) are reindexed in EGLI. For authors, see A. L. A. Index to General Literature Cumulative Author Index, comp. and ed. C. Edward Wall (Ann Arbor: Pierian, 1972; 192 pp.; Cumulative Author Index Ser. 4).


Google. Google, n.d. 12 Oct. 2012. <>.

A popular Internet search engine that offers two specialized databases of interest to language and literature scholars:

  • Google Scholar ( A multidisciplinary database of “scholarly literature [, including] . . . articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.” It also includes scholarly literature from Google Books. However, the Web site offers insufficient explanation of editorial procedures or chronological scope; update frequency; how content is chosen; or what specific journals, publishers, repositories, and organizations are covered. The default search screen offers basic keyword searching; the Advanced Scholar Search screen (click the arrow in the default search box) allows searchers to search by keyword, author, publication name, and title and to restrict keyword searches by date. (Clicking on Settings allows a searcher to further refine searches, e.g., by language and by specific libraries.) Records, which are ordered by relevance but can be resorted by descending date, include a basic citation and sometimes provide links to an abstract or full text. Of the fields covered, humanities fares the worst: an important study of coverage (Chris Neuhaus et al., “The Depth and Breadth of Google Scholar: An Empirical Study,” Portal: Libraries and the Academy 6.2 [2006]: 127–41) reveals that Google Scholar includes only 8% of the citations in MLAIB (G335). Unless coverage and the ability to refine searches and sort results improve dramatically, Google Scholar will remain a marginally useful resource for literature and language scholars. Review: Amy Hoseth, Charleston Advisor 12.3 (2011): 36–39.
  • Google Books ( A full-text database intended to include substantial portions of the holdings of several major research libraries (see About Google Books/Library Partners for participating libraries) and books published by cooperating publishers. Despite its title, Google Books also includes periodicals. As is the case with Google Scholar, the Google Books Web site offers minimal information about the status of the database and editorial procedures. The default search screen offers basic keyword searching; the Advanced Book Search screen that was available on 21 January 2012 has disappeared. Searchers can restrict keyword searches to books with full text available or by date and to search by author, title, subject, publisher, ISSN, and ISBN. Records—which are sorted by relevance but can be resorted by descending date—can be restricted by view (preview), document type (books, magazines), and date. Google Books offers unparalleled access to the content of several million books across the disciplines, but users must be aware of serious problems with metadata attached to many records (see Laura Miller, “The Trouble with Google Books: How Rampant Errors Threaten the Scholarly Mission of the Vast Digital Library,” Salon 9 Sept. 2010: n. pag.; 12 Oct. 2012; <>).


Humanities Full Text. EBSCOhost. Wilson-EBSCO, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated daily. CD-ROM. Updated monthly. (Also available—along with Humanities Abstracts and Humanities Index Retrospective—in Humanities Source [I512].)

Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective. EBSCOhost. Wilson-EBSCO, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. CD-ROM.

Humanities Index. New York: Wilson-EBSCO, 1975– . Quarterly, with annual cumulation. (An expanded continuation of humanities coverage in Social Sciences and Humanities Index [1966–74], itself a continuation of International Index to Periodicals [1916–65, with coverage beginning with 1907].) AI3.H85 016.0013.

An author and subject index to English-language articles, creative works, and reviews in about 700 journals (as of October 2012) devoted to archaeology, classical studies, area studies, film, folklore, gender studies, history, language, literature, performing arts, philosophy, religion, and related fields. Book reviews, listed by author of the book reviewed, are grouped separately at the back. Since 1974, author and title (but not subject) entries for short stories are repeated in Short Story Index (L1085). Listings since February 1984 can be searched through Humanities Abstracts (which includes the index entries from Humanities Index along with abstracts since March 1994) and Humanities Full Text (which includes the data in Humanities Abstracts as well as the full text of selected journals since January 1995; it is also searchable in Wilson’s OmniFile Full Text Mega Edition [I512]). Coverage back to 1907 is available through Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective or Humanities Index Retrospective. See entry I512 for an evaluation of the EBSCO search interface, which all the Humanities Index databases use. Although highly selective, the work is useful for its interdisciplinary coverage and subject indexing.


Academic OneFile. Gale–Cengage Learning. Gale-Cengage, n.d. 3 Jan. 2013. <>.

A database that indexes a variety of popular, general interest, and scholarly periodicals, newspapers, and wire services. This is the largest of the databases making up the InfoTrac Periodical Solutions family; others include Expanded Academic ASAP and General OneFile. Basic Search allows for a keyword search of subjects, titles, or full text; Advanced Search allows a keyword search of standard record fields (e.g., author, title, date, subject) to be limited to full-text or peer-reviewed documents and by date, document type, and title. Results, which can be limited in a variety of ways depending on content and document type, can be sorted by date (ascending or descending) or relevance and marked for printing, e-mailing, or downloading. One of the largest general databases, Academic OneFile offers limited coverage of language and literature resources.

ProQuest Research Library (; formerly Periodical Abstracts) indexes more than 4,000 periodicals from a wide range of fields. Coverage before 1970 is not extensive.


IBZ: Internationale Bibliographie der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Zeitschriftenliteratur / International Bibliography of Periodical Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences / Bibliographie internationale de la littérature périodique dans les sciences humaines et sociales, [1965– ] (IBZ, Dietrich). Berlin: de Gruyter, 1965– . 2 multivol. pts./yr. (A merger of Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur. Abteilung A: Bibliographie der deutschen Zeitschriftenliteratur, [1896–1964] and Abteilung B: Bibliographie der fremdsprachigen Zeitschriftenliteratur, [1911–64].) Former title: Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur aus allen gebieten des Wissens / International Bibliography of Periodical Literature Covering All Fields of Knowledge / Bibliographie internationale de la littérature périodique dans tous les domaines de la connaissance (1965–2000). AI9.I5 016.

IBZ Online. De Gruyter Online. de Gruyter, 2011– . 15 Mar. 2013. <>. Updated regularly.

An international bibliography of periodical articles on the humanities and social sciences (though until the middle of the volumes for 1999 all subjects were included). Coverage, now extending to several thousand serials published worldwide, emphasizes those in English and German and excludes only those in Asian languages. Currently each half-year part has three main divisions:

  1. The Subject Index is a keyword index to article titles. Author, title, and publication information are listed only under German headings, with cross-references in English and French. Periodical titles are keyed by number to the periodical index (an irritating feature that wastes a searcher’s time). The keyword and author indexes refer to subject headings in this index.
  2. The Author Index consists of an alphabetical list of authors of articles cited in the Subject Index. An author entry cites the heading under which the article is listed.
  3. The Periodical Index contains an alphabetical list of periodicals cited in the Subject Index.

IBZ Online includes records since 1983; beginning in November 2009, some records include abstracts. The search screen allows users to search by keyword, article title, author, periodical title, date of publication, subject headings, classification (most headings are far to broad), abstract (in records added since 2009), publisher, or ISSN (or combinations of the preceding). Results can be sorted by date (descending), author, title, or relevance (a useless option for sorting a large number of records). Results can be e-mailed, printed, saved, or shared, but they must first be saved one at a time. Although the search interface has improved dramatically since IBZ Online was first released, the current version does not allow for sophisticated searches.

The most useful feature of IBZ, IJBF (G395), and IJBK (G395a)—all share the same interface and indexing procedures—is the subject indexing; however, researchers must devote considerable time to mastering terminology and identifying appropriate headings and must remember that indexing is dependent on title words and is sometimes too broad to be useful (e.g. “englische literatur” or “theater”).

The criteria governing selection of journals and articles have never been explained; coverage of a journal is often erratic (and grossly incomplete); many issues are only partially indexed; and the compilation procedures and editing (as described by Broadwin—see below) hardly inspire confidence in accuracy or thoroughness. However, the breadth of coverage makes IBZ an occasionally useful complement to the other works in this section. Currently, however, coverage of English and American literature is not particularly thorough.

For a discussion of editorial procedures and evaluation of IBZ, see John A. Broadwin, “An Analysis of the Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur,” Journal of Documentation 32.1 (1976): 26–31; and B. J. McMullin, “Indexing the Periodical Literature of Anglo-American Bibliography,” Studies in Bibliography 33 (1980): 1–17.


Internationale Jahresbibliographie der Festschriften / International Annual Bibliography of Festschriften / Bibliographie internationale annuelle des mélanges, [1980– ] (IJBF). Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982– . Annual. Z1033.F4.

IJBF Online. De Gruyter Online. de Gruyter, 2011– . 15 Mar. 2013. <>.

An international index to Festschriften (including those published as an issue of a periodical) in all subjects. Each annual bibliography has five divisions:

  1. The Festschriften list by honoree is an index with publication information for the collection and a list of contents. The following divisions are keyed to this one.
  2. The Festschriften list by fields of knowledge classifies the collections in 17 fields of knowledge, including general; book, documentation, and communication; linguistics and literary studies; art and culture; and folklore and ethnology.
  3. The subject index is a keyword index, in German with English and French cross-references, to titles of contributions.
  4. The keyword index lists, by field of knowledge, the headings used in the subject index.
  5. The author index is an index of contributors listed in the Festschriften entries.

Divisions 1 and 5 are cumulatively indexed in Internationale Jahresbibliographie der Festschriften / International Annual Bibliography of Festschriften / Bibliographie internationale annuelle des mélanges: Alphabetisches Register, 1980–1989 / Alphabetical Register, 1980–1989; Index alphabétique, 1980–1989, 2 vols., ed. Otto Zeller and Wolfram Zeller (1992) and Alphabetisches Register, 1990–1999 / Alphabetical Register, 1990–1999 / Index alphabétique, 1990–1999, 3 vols., ed. Zeller and Zeller (1999).

A companion index—Internationale Jahresbibliographie der Kongressberichte / International Annual Bibliography of Congress Proceedings / Bibliographie internationale annuelle des actes de congrès, [1984–94] (IJBK) (1987–96; available online > and on CD-ROM [covering 1995–2007] only since 1996)—is organized in the same divisions (except that the first organizes collections by German-language subject groups, with English and French cross-references).

The most useful feature of both bibliographies is the subject indexing; however, researchers must devote considerable time to mastering terminology and identifying appropriate headings and must remember that indexing is dependent on title words and is sometimes too broad to be useful (e.g. “englische literatur” or “theater”).

IJBF Online (with coverage since 1977) and IJBK (with coverage since 1984) are much easier to search than the print version. The search interface is similar to that for IBZ (G390)—with additional fields for honoree and title of Festschrift in IBJF and for title of conference in IJBK—and is subject to the same limitations.

Although both IJBF and IJBK are marred by compilation and editorial procedures that hardly inspire confidence in accuracy or thoroughness, by the lack of an adequate explanation of scope and criteria governing selection, and by awkward organization, the breadth of the works makes them potentially useful sources for identifying essays on language and literature appearing in collections of essays in disciplines other than language and literature. Indexing is now about three years in arrears except for the online IJBF, which is more current. MLAIB (G335) offers superior and more current coverage of collections devoted to language and literature.

Festschriften published through 1979 are indexed in Otto Leistner, Internationale Bibliographie der Festschriften von den Anfängen bis 1979 mit Sachregister / International Bibliography of Festschriften from the Beginnings until 1979 with Subject-Index, 2nd enl. ed., 3 vols. (Osnabrück: Biblio, 1984–89). The first part lists collections by honoree; the second indexes volumes (but not individual essays) by subject under German and English headings; the third supplements and indexes by subject entries in the preceding parts. For other bibliographies of Festschriften, see Bewsey, “Festschriften Bibliographies and Indexes” (D165).


Periodicals Index Online. ProQuest. ProQuest, n.d. 12 Oct. 2012. <>. Updated regularly. CD-ROM. (Former title: PCI: Periodicals Contents Index.)

Periodicals Archive Online. ProQuest. ProQuest n.d. 12 Oct. 2012. <>. Updated regularly. (Former title: PCI Full Text.)

An index to the contents of humanities and social sciences periodicals (popular and academic) and monographic series published since 1665, for the most part in North America and Western Europe. As of October 2012, coverage encompasses more than 19 million records from more than 7,400 journals published through the early 2000s (despite the site’s claim that 1995 is the terminal date of coverage in Index). The full text of articles in more than 1,200 journals (as of October 2012) can be searched through Periodicals Archive Online. To discover what issues of a journal are actually indexed, users must search by journal title or browse the list on the Find Journals page, which also allows browsing the contents of an issue. In both the Index and Archive, Article Search allows records to be searched by keyword (in the full text in Archive), title keyword, author, language, journal title, subject of journal, ISSN, and date (and any combination thereof); searchers can elect to exclude or search only book reviews, articles indexed in British Periodicals, citations linked to full text, and (in Archive) unindexed front and back matter. The default search screen allows only a search by article title, author, ISSN, journal title, or (in Archive) full text. Search results can be sorted by relevance, alphabetically by journal title, or date (ascending or descending); in addition, results of a search can be filtered by journal title, language, date ranges, or journal subjects. Records—which include basic bibliographical information—can be marked for e-mailing, downloading, printing, or storing in a personal archive. Indexing is based on tables of contents (which are not always reliable) rather than on a perusal of articles and reviews, the names of authors are not regularized, keyword access is not based on a controlled thesaurus, some records lack full bibliographical information, and coverage of topics is haphazard. Users should remember that recent volumes are not indexed; for example, of the 1,061 journals listed under Literature in Index, fewer than 100 are covered beyond 1995 (with coverage rarely extending beyond 2000). Before using Periodicals Index Online, researchers should consult Robert Balay’s evaluation (pp. 13–20) in Early Periodical Indexes (G327), keeping in mind that the current search interface is substantially better than earlier ones. In their current state, Archive and Index are primarily useful to language and literature researchers as a supplement to the other serial bibliographies in this section.

Records from 1770 through 1919 in Index can be searched through C19: The Nineteenth Century Index (M2466).


Readers’ Guide Full Text, Mega Edition. EBSCOhost. Wilson-EBSCO, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated daily. (Also accessible through OmniFile Full Text Mega Edition [I512].)

Readers’ Guide Abstracts. EBSCOhost. Wilson-EBSCO, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated daily.

Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature: An Author Subject Index to General Interest Periodicals of Reference Value in Libraries (RG; Readers’ Guide). New York: Wilson, 1901– . Monthly, with annual cumulation. Subtitle varies. AI3.R4 051. <>. Updated daily.

Readers’ Guide Retrospective: 1890–1982. EBSCOhost. Wilson, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>.

An author and subject index to about 450 popular magazines (as of October 2012) published in English (with full-text access since 1994 to about 250 of the magazines covered). Readers’ Guide Full Text also includes abstracts and index entries from Readers’ Guide Abstracts, which in turn incorporates the index entries since January 1983 in Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Users searching the print version of Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature for reviews should consult the prefatory “Suggestions for . . . Use” for an explanation of indexing practices. Since 1974, author and title (but not subject) entries for short stories are repeated in Short Story Index (L1085). Readers’ Guide Retrospective—which replicates the data in the print version of Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature—indexes 375 magazines published between 1890 and 1992. See entry I512 for an evaluation of the EBSCO search interface, which all the Readers’ Guide databases use.

Among indexes to popular magazines, Readers’ Guide offers the most extensive retrospective coverage; however, the following indexes include additional publications:

  • Academic Search Complete. EBSCOhost. EBSCO, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated daily. Indexes more than 13,000 journals and other publications in a wide variety of disciplines (including language and literature), with full-text access to more than 9,000 publications. For a list of journals covered and dates of coverage, click the Publications link. See entry I512 for a discussion of the EBSCO search interface.
  • Alternative Press Index. Chicago: Alternative Press Center, 1970– . 2/yr. Title varies. <>. Updated quarterly. Indexes by subject between 200 and 400 radical, alternative, and leftist English-language magazines. Coverage in the online Alternative Press Index begins with 1991; Alternative Press Index Archive covers the earlier records. For a list of journals covered and dates of coverage, click the Publications link. See entry I512 for a discussion of the EBSCO search interface.
  • ArticleFirst. OCLC. OCLC: Online Computer Lib. Center, 2013. 22 Aug. 2013. <>. Updated daily. Indexes the tables of contents of several thousand journals in a multitude of disciplines. Coverage extends at least back to 1990. Like other FirstSearch databases, this offers no explanation of scope or editorial principles, and to identify what issues of journals have been indexed, a searcher must find a title through Browse Titles, click on Available Issues, and then skim the entire list since volumes and issues are not always listed in numerical order. In addition, there are frequently gaps in coverage of a journal. See entry E225 for an evaluation of the search interface.

For nineteenth-century periodicals, see Helen Grant Cushing and Adah V. Morris, eds., Nineteenth Century Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, 1890–1899: With Supplementary Indexing, 1900–1922, 2 vols. (New York: Wilson, 1944); Wellesley Index (M2545); and Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature (Q4150).

These sources are occasionally useful to literary researchers for locating creative works, articles, interviews, and reviews of books, films, and plays in periodicals not covered by the standard literature indexes.

See also[edit]

19th Century Masterfile (Q4147).

Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature (Q4150).

Book Review Indexes[edit]

Bibliographies of Bibliographies[edit]


Gray, Richard A., comp. A Guide to Book Review Citations: A Bibliography of Sources. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1968. 223 pp. Ohio State U Libs. Pubs. 2. Z1035.A1 G7 016.0281.

A bibliography of serial bibliographies and indexes, closed bibliographies, and other works (through the mid-1960s) that cite reviews from more than one periodical. The 512 entries are organized by author or title in nine variously classified subject divisions: general works (including general book review indexes); philosophy and psychology; religion; social sciences (with a section for anthropology and folklore); ancient, Asian, and African civilizations; modern languages, philology, and literature; geography and history; fine arts (with sections for the performing arts and theater and drama); and science and technology. In the language and literature division, sections for general indexes, comparative literature, and periods are followed by sections for various languages, with that for English subdivided by period. Additions are printed on pp. 194–97. Annotations first describe the general scope of a work, then the organization of review citations. Five indexes: subjects; persons who are the subjects of bibliographies; titles; works indexing reviews before 1900 and before 1800; country of origin (listing works that review or cite periodicals published in a single country). The lack of headings for sections leaves readers unable to skim effectively or locate a work easily, but the full descriptions and international coverage make Gray an indispensable guide to identifying sources that index reviews. A revised, updated edition that evaluates sources is badly needed, however.

Supplemented by Donald Altschiller and Sarah G. Wenzel, “Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 42.3 (2003): 193–98, 200–05.


Book review indexes are essential tools for locating reviews of a book and tracing the critical reception of an author or work. Unfortunately, there is no adequate current index of reviews of belles lettres or of books on literary and linguistic topics. Most vendors of collections of electronic journals fail to identify adequately book reviews in tables of contents: some merely use the label book reviews, others cite reviewer and short title (sometimes within brackets to distinguish a review from an article), and yet others make no distinction between a book review and an article.


Book Review Index. Detroit: Gale-Cengage, 1965–69, 1972– . 3/yr., with annual cumulation and ones for 1965–84, 1985–92, 1993–97, and 1998–2002. Z1035.A1.B6. <>.

An index of reviews of books and serials in about 400 (as of March 2013) newspapers, library and popular periodicals, and scholarly journals. Books reviewed are listed by author or editor; periodicals and some reference works, by title; all are included in the title index. Although Book Review Index lists numerous brief mentions and uncritical summaries and at one time covered few serials that offer substantial and substantive evaluations of scholarly books, it is the best source for identifying reviews of creative works and thus for tracing their critical reception; recent volumes have substantially increased the number of reviews of scholarly books.

Reviews since 1965 can be searched online through four search screens: Author [of book] Guide; Title Guide; Advanced Search; Journal Search. Searches in each can be limited to full-text reviews and by date, journal, type of review, length of review, reading level of book reviewed, and form (e.g., blog); in addition, Advanced Search allows record field searches to be limited by reviewer, publisher, and other record fields. Records are returned in descending order by date of review.

Entries for children’s books are repeated in Children’s Book Review Index (U5495), but this clone and two cumulations—Book Review Index: Reference Books, 1965–1984 (1986; 700 pp.) and Book Review Index: Periodical Reviews, 1976–1984 (1987; 295 pp.)—are hardly essential for those with access to the 1965–84 cumulation.

To locate reviews before 1965, see Book Review Digest (New York: Wilson, 1905– ; 10/yr., with annual cumulation). Because of its weak coverage of the humanities, limited scope (currently, about 109 periodicals, many of them popular), and numerous restrictions—in many volumes books must be published or distributed in the United States, reviews must appear within 18 months of publication, a nonfiction work must have two reviews (fiction, three) in the periodicals indexed, at least one review must be published in the United States—Book Review Digest is more useful for identifying reviews of popular fiction and nonfiction than scholarly works. Since brief excerpts from three or four reviews are reprinted and citations indicate the approximate number of words, users are generally spared from searching out the brief uncritical summaries. Cumulatively indexed in Author/Title Index, 1905–1974, ed. Leslie Dunmore-Leiber, 4 vols. (1976); 1975–1984, ed. Robert E. Klaum (1986; 1,488 pp.); and 1985–1994, ed. Martha T. Mooney (1996; 1,261 pp.). Entries can be searched most efficiently through Book Review Digest Plus (; updated daily), which expands coverage of the print version to include reviews indexed in several other Wilson publications and the full text of many reviews, and Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1905–1982 ( Entries, which bring together all reviews under a citation to the book reviewed, can be searched by such fields as keyword, title, author, reviewer, and ISBN. (For a full discussion of the EBSCO search interface, see entry I512.)


Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Humanities Journals, 1802–1974. Ed. Evan Ira Farber et al. 10 vols. Woodbridge: Research, 1982–84. Z6265.C65 [AZ221] 001.3.

An index to reviews in about 150 philosophy, classics, folklore, linguistics, music, and (primarily) literature journals, all but a few of them published in English in Great Britain or North America. Although the criteria determining the choice of journals are never revealed, most of the important literature journals are indexed. The work excludes brief summaries or annotated listings, and—unfortunately—review articles whose titles do not cite the books reviewed. Organized alphabetically by primary authors or editors and then by book titles, reviews are listed by journal title and cite publication information and reviewer. Users searching for anything other than a single-author monograph should begin with the title index (vol. 10) because names are not thoroughly edited for consistency, critical editions are inconsistently entered under author or editor, authors are confused (see, e.g., Robert Herrick), reference works are usually listed by primary editor, and there are no cross-references. Unfortunately, there are numerous omissions of reviews in journals that are supposedly fully indexed. Although flawed in organization and untrustworthy in coverage, Combined Retrospective Index is undeniably valuable as the only source offering retrospective indexing of reviews in a significant number of scholarly humanities journals. For reviews published between 1960 and 1974, Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities (G425) usually offers fuller, more accurate indexing. Researchers should also check ABELL (G340) for reviews of scholarly books.

Some additional reviews can be found in Combined Retrospective Index to Book Reviews in Scholarly Journals, 1886–1974, ed. Evan Ira Farber, 15 vols. (Arlington: Carrollton, 1979–82), which indexes about one million reviews in 459 scholarly periodicals in history, political science, and sociology.


An Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities, [1960–89]. 30 vols. Williamstown: Thomson, 1960–90. Annual. Z1035.A1 I63 028.1.

An index to reviews in scholarly journals devoted to literature (primarily), language, philosophy, the arts, travel, biography, dance, folklore, and sports and pastimes. Coverage underwent a major change with vol. 12 (for 1971): history and social science journals were dropped; journals in major foreign languages were added; the emphasis became more literary; and except for those of children’s books, all reviews—not just of humanities books—were indexed. Organized for the most part by author or editor—but occasionally by title for some reference works, with cross-references for compilers or editors—entries cite title and reviews. (Since names of authors are taken from reviews and not edited for consistency, users must check all forms of a name, including pseudonyms.) An asterisk following a title indicates that reviews are cited in the preceding volume. Since most review citations identify journals by a number code (with many omitting the MLAIB [G335] acronym that the compiler claims to use when possible) and cite date but not volume number, users must continually flip to the prefatory list of journals (and issues) indexed and then waste time hunting out issues by date rather than the more convenient volume number. Although it omits numerous important journals, is difficult to scan in the volumes printed from uppercase computer printout, is inconsistent in covering titles, and lacks an adequate statement of criteria governing the selection of journals, Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities was by far the best, most trustworthy source for locating scholarly reviews of books on language and literature; its demise leaves no remotely adequate index to reviews of scholarly books in the two fields.


IBR-Online. De Gruyter Online. de Gruyter, 2011– . 11 Mar. 2013 <>. Updated monthly.

Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlicher Literatur / International Bibliography of Book Reviews of Scholarly Literature in the Humanities and Social Sciences (IBR). Berlin: de Gruyter–Saur, 1971– . Title varies. Z5051.I64 [AS9] 001.2.

A database of more than 1,300,000 reviews published since c. 1984 of books primarily in the social sciences and humanities; according to the publisher, approximately 90% are in English or German, and the remainder in other European languages. In the Search screen users can limit keyword searches of the full text or of the following fields: book author, reviewer, book title, journal, subject heading, broad classification, year of publication, publisher, or ISSN. Results can be sorted by year of publication of reviews, book title, book author, or relevance (avoid this option when dealing with large numbers of records). Records can be marked for e-mailing, printing, sharing, or saving, but they must saved one at a time. Although not an especially sophisticated interface, it is far superior to the original one, which caused most users to exit in frustration before extracting anything.

The print version indexes reviews (published since c. 1969) in journals devoted to the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Coverage extends to more than 10,000 journals published worldwide, excluding only those in Asian languages; until vol. 27 (1996) coverage extended to all topics (and included reviews of belles lettres). The last few half-year parts of the print version have four divisions:

  1. books reviewed (organized by author, with a full citation for the book and a list of reviews but, unfortunately, with periodical titles keyed by number to the periodicals indexed); the next three indexes are keyed to this one
  2. reviewers
  3. titles of books reviewed
  4. periodicals

The work is needlessly complicated and time-consuming to use, since a researcher must consult two indexes to locate all publication information for a review. The criteria governing selection of journals and reviews have never been explained; coverage of a journal is often erratic and issues incompletely indexed; and the compilation procedures and editing hardly inspire confidence in the accuracy and thoroughness. However, the breadth of coverage—the most wide-ranging of any single index—makes IBR a useful complement to the other review indexes in this section.

IBR continues Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur, Abteilung C: Bibliographie der Rezensionen, [1900–1943], 77 vols. (Osnabrück: Dietrich, 1901–44), which inconsistently covers non-German periodicals.

See also[edit]

Sec. G: Serial Bibliographies, Indexes, and Abstracts/Serial Bibliographies/General Bibliographies.

ABELL (G340): Coverage of reviews is neither thorough nor consistent, however.

Index to Book Reviews in Religion (U6350a).

Index to Reviews of Bibliographical Publications (U5275a).


Abstracts collect and index summaries of published works and thus are valuable resources for identifying studies of an author or topic buried within a larger work or an obscurely titled one and for making a preliminary decision about what books, articles, and dissertations to obtain. In general, abstracts by trained abstractors are preferable to those written by authors, who sometimes do not describe what they actually wrote.

A major lacuna in reference works for literatures in English is a thorough, current, fully indexed abstract. Although MLAIB (G335) began including publisher-provided abstracts of journal articles in 2008 and has added abstracts from MLA Abstracts of Articles in Scholarly Journals (G335a), it will be many years before literature scholars enjoy a resource comparable to PsycINFO (U6530).

The following include summaries of scholarship on more than one national literature. Those limited to a single national literature or subject will be found under the heading Abstracts in appropriate sections.


Abstracts of English Studies (AES). 34 vols. Oxford: Blackwell for Dept. of English, U of Calgary, 1958–94. Quarterly. PE25.A16 820′.5.

Abstracts of articles published in a core list of about 500 journals (at its demise), all but a few publishing in English. Originally restricted to articles on English and American literature, coverage was eventually extended to world literature in English and related literatures (defined by the editors as any “literature that has had marked influence on English literature and language”). With vol. 13 (1969), the unwieldy organization of entries by journal was replaced by a classified arrangement. Users should consult the front matter of each volume for the then-current organization. The descriptive summaries tend to be brief but frequently alert researchers to discussions of authors or topics buried in vaguely titled or general studies. Two indexes (subjects; scholars) in each issue; cumulated annually in the last issue, which also prints a list of journals abstracted in the volume. Except for literary authors and titles of anonymous works, the subject indexing is inadequate. Coverage is erratic (with unfilled gaps for many major periodicals) and includes few articles in foreign languages.


English and American Studies in German: Summaries of Theses and Monographs: A Supplement to Anglia . Berlin: de Gruyter, 1969– . Annual. PE3.A6 420′.5.

Publishes English summaries of dissertations, collections of essays, and books (primarily in German) on the English language and literatures in English. Coverage begins with 1967. Currently organized in four sections: general, language, literature and culture (with subdivisions for general studies, British and Anglo-Irish literatures and cultures, North American and Canadian literatures and cultures, and postcolonial literatures and cultures), and the teaching of English. Two indexes: subjects; authors. Since English and American Studies in German relies on authors and editors for abstracts, coverage is incomplete but does include many studies overlooked in the standard bibliographies.

See also[edit]

Because of their international, interdisciplinary scope, the following works abstract a considerable number of literature- and language-related studies not included or inadequately indexed in standard literature and language bibliographies: America: History and Life (Q3310), Historical Abstracts (U6500), PsycINFO (U6530), Sociological Abstracts (U6560), Women Studies Abstracts (U6610).

Children’s Literature Abstracts (U5490).