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MLA Bibliography Database: How to use it

The Modern Language Association (MLA) International Bibliography database is an index to journal articles, books, and more, published on languages, literatures, folklore, film, and linguistics.

Advanced Search Screen

Advanced Search 

You can choose to limit your search by language, date, publication type, and other ways by making your choice(s) on the lower portion of the Advanced Search screen (which is the default search screen).  (See screen shot below.) 

Some of these same choices are available from the Basic search screen. 

Using Links Within the Record

In an item in the Result List or in the record of an item (after you have clicked on a title in the Result List), you may also click on anything that is in blue to link to other materials by that author or from that source or with that subject heading.  Words or phrases in blue type are links.  (See screen shot below.)

Searching for Materials About a Literary Author

To search for materials about an author

In the search box, simply type in the person’s name (first name first or last name first, it doesn't matter), and click on “Search.”


Click on “Names as Subjects” across the top of the screen (use this option if you're not sure of the spelling of the author's name or whether you should use a pseudonym or not). (See screen shot below.)

On the “Browse for” line, type in the name of the author (last name first--it does matter for this search).

Click on “Browse.”

Check the box to the left of the author you want.

Click on “Search.”



Field Searches, Subjects, and Source Types

Field Searches --You may designate if you want to search anywhere in the record (Select a Field (optional)), only the title, only the author, only the subject, etc., by changing the default fields. (See screen shot below.)

Once you have executed a search, MLA suggests subject terms along the left-hand side of the results (under Subject) which you can AND with your original search to focus your search or substitute for your original search term(s).  If you want to AND a term with your original search, just check the box next to the term you want to AND into your search and then click on Update.

You can also limit your results to the Source Type (journal articles, book articles, dissertations, etc.) by clicking on a specific type in the left-hand side bar.

MLA Thesaurus

Thesaurus-- The Thesaurus indicates the official vocabulary assigned to classify the items in the database. You can search for a term or phrase using the Thesaurus.The Thesaurus searches for terms ONLY in the Subject Terms field of the record.

Click on “Thesaurus” along the top of the screen. (See screen show below.)   Type the term or phrase you are looking for in the box under “Browsing: MLA International Bibliography – Thesaurus,” then click on Browse.  Your term or phrase will show up in the alphabetical list if it is used as an official subject in the database.

For example, if you look up "females" in the Thesaurus, you will see that it is NOT used as a subject term. 


If you look up "women," you will see that it IS used as a subject term. (See screen shot below.)

If the term or phrase is listed, check the box to the left of the term, then click on “Search” if you want to search just that term, or click on “Add” if you want to add that term to your search.

You may check more than one term before clicking on “Add.”

If more than one term is checked, the terms will automatically be ORed together in the search.  You can change the OR to AND or NOT by choosing a different option from the drop-down menu next to ADD.

Checking to see if a word is listed in the Thesaurus can often be a means of better focusing your search.  For example, if one looks up "Metaphor" in the Thesaurus, one sees that there are several more specific terms that can be used such as "metaphor analysis," "metaphor comprehension," "metaphor interpretation," "metaphor production," and more.


Using Your Search History

You may combine previous searches by clicking on the “Search History.” (See screen shot below.)

Check the searches you wish to combine and check the Boolean (logical) operator you wish to use to combine them (“and,” “or,” “not”).  Click on “Add.”

Or type “s” (without the quotation marks) and the search number in a search box. 

You can use Boolean operators to combine previous searches or use previous searches with new terms. 
Examples: s3 AND s14;  s5 OR s7; s2 and meter


Searching for Research Materials by a Specific Author

To search for articles by an author (remember, this search will be for the author of an article or book, probably NOT the author you are researching), you can restrict your search to the author field by typing in the author’s name (last name first) in the search box.

Change the field to “Author”

Click on “Search”


If you are uncertain of how an author’s name is spelled, or how he/she might have listed it on a particular publication (using a middle initial, for example, or not), hover over More at the top of the page. Click on Indexes, then by Browse an Index, select Author. (See screen shot below.)

Type the author’s name (as close as you know to the correct spelling), last name first, on the “Browse for” line.

Click on “Browse.”

Check the box beside the name of the author you seek, and click "Search."

You can check the boxes next to more than one name if you wish.

Have a question? Ask a librarian! Email Call or text 386-747-9028.