Searching the MLA International Bibliography

By Diaz, Karen R.; Alexander, Harriet | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Searching the MLA International Bibliography

Diaz, Karen R., Alexander, Harriet, Reference & User Services Quarterly

All, Nothing, or Something Between?

Electronic databases are in large part based on print indexes and bibliographies that may or may not translate well into electronic format. Historical changes in the structure of the Modern Language Association (MLA) International Bibliography and present and past editorial practices make its electronic form a difficult one from which to retrieve the specialized topics frequently assigned to high school seniors and college students participating in lower level English composition and literature courses.

This article establishes the history of the Bibliography, itemizes the difficulties inherent in typical keyword Boolean searches, and suggests alternative routes open to students and librarians directed to use the Bibliography.--Editor

Many academic librarians and librarians in large public libraries are learning that public use of electronic databases is a mixed blessing. Public expectations are high. All databases are full-text. All information is available on the Internet. The library owns every issue of every publication indexed for immediate public use. If the library doesn't have it, then with the help of overnight mail and faxes, it should be available for use the next day. Keyword and Subject are synonymous terms. The same search strategy is effective in all databases. The use of natural language, as in the phrase "violence in the public schools," will return all relevant, and only relevant, listings.

Perhaps the worst problem lies not in the ignorance of the general public, however, but in the concept held by those who engineer and produce the databases that simply computerizing a database--whether it is a bibliography, index, or full-text--is always going to create a better method of retrieving relevant material. What can be ignored is the fact that much record enhancement may be required to allow for better retrieval in a computerized environment. An example of the searching problems that can happen as a result of inadequate enhancement is the MLA International Bibliography. The following is a point-by-point illustration of why the structure of the MLA International Bibliography does not convert well to computerization, and why this conversion causes problems for lower level students.

History of the Print Version

The print bibliography began in 1921 as a listing of research in the field of literature by American scholars. The MLA confined itself to literatures of currently written/spoken languages; therefore, works of classical literature (ancient Greek and Latin) were not included. Listings were limited and the division of the Bibliography into the language of origin of the literature appeared suitable. A scholar of the literature of France would, in all probability, wish to see what was being done on French literature as well as the works of Dumas or Flaubert. From 1921 through 1925, the Bibliography was written in an essay format. In 1926, an outline order of listings was adopted.

First Reorganization

In 1956, the Bibliography became an international listing, no longer confining itself to the work of American scholars. The section of Festschriften and Other Analyzed Collections preceded the more specific classified entries. Individual essays in these collections were listed in their normal order in the classification scheme, the entry referring back to this section by means of the number of the book's entry in the Festschriften section under "F" [F 22]. Abbreviations developed for the periodicals listed in the Bibliography were so cryptic that use of the abbreviations list at the beginning of the volume was not a mere safeguard but an absolute necessity. Entries for a specific author were listed under the author's name only--whether the essays dealt with their work in general or with individual works. The only exception, other than for anonymous works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was Shakespeare, whose listing was separated from that of other Renaissance authors, and for whom entries for specific works were listed under their individual titles, Romeo and Juliet, Venus and Adonis, Julius Caesar, and so on. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Searching the MLA International Bibliography


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.