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English Subject Guide: American Studies



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American Studies: Fitzgerald, Perkins Gilman, and Hemingway

Rulebreakers Reading Guide

Class goals:

  • establish a good search strategy for your topic
  • learn how to search JSTOR & Gale Literature Resource Center (two academic databases)
  • be able to unpack & interpret your search results
  • learn to credential your sources (both print and electronic)



The Key to All Wisdom:  Think First, Search Second
Good research is the result of good thinking. 

Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases relevant to your topic, and include synonyms.  This is an essential step you should never skip.  Think about synonyms for your keywords and phrases.

Use quotation marks for exact phrases:

  • ex:  "jay gatsby"
  • ex:   "nervous depression"
  • ex:   "hills like white elephants"

Wild cards find all versions of a word when added after the word's root:

  • ex:  abort* finds abort, aborts, abortive, abortion, etc.  
  • ex:  narrat* finds narrate, narrates, narration, narrator, and narrative, etc.  

Start with a general search, and narrow it down as you look through your results.


Useful Databases for Literary Research

We subscribe to a number of databases.  To use them, you'll need the logins and passwords, so click on the box at the upper left of this page. 

Different databases are useful for different kinds of searches. For literary criticism, JSTOR is strongest. For all-around general information, including biographical background on authors, choose Gale Literature Resource Center.

Literary Research / Biographical Information

    Historical Background / Context

You establish your credibility by showing that the sources you use are written by knowledgeable, professional people with expertise.  Here are some possible credentials an author might have:

  • is an Associate Professor of American Literature at Lewis and Clark College
  • authored a book on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and several academic articles
  • has several academic articles published in journals that you found through JSTOR
  • earned an advanced degree in the field of study s/he/they are writing about
  • shows evidence of deep experience on the topic (e.g., a chef writing on cooking, or a seasoned mountaineer on climbing)

How to Credential a Journal Article

There are 3 quick places to look:

  1. first page of the article, adjacent to the author's name
  2. last page of the article, just before the Works Cited or Notes section
  3. by clicking on the author's name in the database, and seeing what else comes up

Here are JSTOR examples.


Here's an example from Gale Literature Reference Center.

Need help?  Ask Maureen, Sue or Derek.

Credentialing a Book Author or Contributor

Book publishers and editors often do a bunch of the work for you!  Here's where to look:  

  • check the book flap for a brief bio of your author (inside front or back cover)
  • check the back of the book
  • If the book has an editor and chapters by different authors, check the table of contents for a chapter called CONTRIBUTORS, or something similar.

Books on Reserve


All the library's relevant books for your research are on a reserve shelf near the old clock in the US Library.
Ethical behavior using reserve materials:

  • you MUST use the slips to check out any item you remove from the Manuscript Room
  • YOU are responsible for the on-time return of any item you borrow
  • books may be borrowed for ONE BLOCK at a time, or overnight/over the weekend when signed out at the end of the school day
  • all borrowed items must be returned BY 8:30 AM SHARP the next school day
  • be kind to one another by observing all of these rules, and avoiding hoarding behaviors that hurt the entire class

What's on reserve?

  • Books of criticism by a single author
  • Books of critical essays written by multiple authors, and gathered by an editor into a single volume
  • A selection of literary biographies

Save Yourself a Huge Headache

Be sure to copy the title page of the book when you copy an article/section of the book.  You'll be able to locate it and cite it later on.  Another resource for citing is the US Library Catalog.  Look up the book you're using, and obtain information about authors, editors, date and place of publication, edition, etc.  Have questions?  Ask Sue or Derek.


Your US Librarian

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Sue Phillips
Upper School Library
503.297.1894 x4550 (circulation desk); (503)297-1894 x4100 (voicemail)