Finding Sources

NB: This page should be used in conjunction with Key Resources. It is divided into the following sections:

  1. General finding aids
  2. Online primary texts
  3. Full-text secondary sources
  4. Online journals
  5. Literary reviews
  6. Theses

1. General

You should always check to see if there is a bibliography of the period/work/theory you are writing on (e.g. the various volumes of John Donne: An Annotated Bibliography of Modern Criticism). This will ensure that you can pick your secondary sources more efficiently. If these are not available in the library, you can order them on inter-library loan.


Hawkins-Dady, Mark. Reader’s Guide to Literature in English. Routledge, 1996. This book summarises some of the most important secondary texts on a large range of authors and literary subjects. It’s a good place to begin when looking for secondary sources as you can decide whether the approach of the sources is interesting or relevant to you.

Harner, James L. Literary Research Guide: An Annotated Listing of Reference Sources in English Literary Studies. MLA, various editions. This is particularly useful for those writing BA or MA theses. Use the newest edition available to you.

*Marcuse, Michael J., A Reference Guide for English Studies. University of California Press, 1990. Available through Google Books. Dated but still useful.

Shattock, Joanne ed., The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, Vol. 4: 1800-1900. Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Watson, George et al. eds. The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. 5 vols. Cambridge University Press, 1969-77. Despite the ‘New’ in the title this work is dated but it is still useful for finding out pre-1970s sources.


Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL). Available through Literature Online (LION).

*Google Scholar. Can be tailored to search your university library.

IBR-Online contains reviews of more than 570,000 scholarly works. These can help you find the most useful sources for your project.

MLA Bibliography. Standard bibliography of modern literature in European languages.

Oxford Bibliographies. Annotated research guides for English and American literature, medieval studies and Renaissance studies. Available through the library’s databases.

The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory. A review of major publications year by year.

The Year’s Work in English Studies. A review of major publications year by year.

*Worldcat. Searches some of the world’s largest libraries. If you put in your postcode it will only search local libraries.

2. Online Primary Texts

Early English Books Online (EEBO). Digitised books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These are copies of the original books and have no annotations.

*Google Books. Usually only has the full text of pre- and early twentieth-century books. You can often read substantial parts of recent books, but beware of trying to understand a text that you can only read in part. Look at the advanced search options.

Literature Online (LION). Primary texts from the medieval period to the twentieth century. NB: The database includes many texts from the Penguin Classics series.

*Project Gutenberg. Out of copyright books. Can be downloaded to e-readers. These are okay for reading, but you should quote scholarly texts in assessed work.

3. Online Secondary Sources

ACLS Humanities E-Book. A collection of approximately 3,700 books of high quality in the humanities.

Cambridge Core contains:

  •  The Cambridge Companions series is aimed for use by undergraduates and has excellent collections of essays on all the major authors of literature in English.
  • Cambridge Histories Online. Resources for the history of the English language, theatre history and the history of literatures in English. Also has useful works on Classics, the history of books and general history.

ebrary. Ebooks from academic publishers. Very strong literature range.

Oxford Scholarship Online. Hundreds of books from Oxford University Press.

Wiley Online Library. Includes an extensive range of Blackwell Companions to literature.

4. Online Journals

Complete RUG list, however, it is easier to search for specific journal titles via the library catalogue.

Browzine. Journals to which the RUG is subscribed.

Great Hall at Gainsborough

Cambridge Core contains the Cambridge University Press journals that the university subscribes to.

Duke University Press Journals Online

JSTOR. A massive collection of literary journals.

Oxford Journals

Project MUSE. Recent journals dealing with all areas of literature.

Wiley Online Library. Includes a small collection of some very good journals.

5. Literary Reviews

These are useful for the following:

  • Students working on recently published works may find that there are few useful secondary sources available elsewhere;
  • Reviews are often written by prominent authors or academics;
  • These reviews can address landmark secondary sources in a given area and can be used to help readers select secondary sources that may be useful for their work.

The university has subscriptions (either paper and/or electronic) to the following:

6. Theses

Looking at the topics other people have written on can sometimes spark off ideas. Naturally, you have to be very careful not to use other people’s work without due acknowledgement. By and large BA and MA theses are not suitable secondary sources.

Groningen PhD theses.

Groningen dissertations: BA and MA dissertations from the Faculty of Arts.

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Comprehensive collection of dissertations and theses from around the world.


Elizabeth Cary, Viscountess Falkland (d. 1639) was the earliest identifiable female dramatist in English.
Elizabeth Cary, Viscountess Falkland (d. 1639) was the earliest identifiable female dramatist in English.