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Guide to MLA International Bibliography Database

Field Searching

You can narrow your results by searching for terms within a certain database record "field" (e.g. author field, title field, keyword field)

Keywords vs. Descriptors

Using a keyword search (field code KW=) generally produces more results than using the same term as a descriptor (field code DE=), because keyword searching looks for your term(s) in both the title and the descriptor fields. This may help retrieve citations with an unusual word in their titles that has not been adopted as an official descriptor (subject heading) by the database. ( Example: The word “zine” has not, as of June 2005, been adopted as a Descriptor by MLA, but there were 11 documents in the bibliography with this word in the title, so a keyword search would be necessary to retrieve these citations.) On the other hand, you may retrieve irrelevant citations because not every instance of the word in document citations means what you mean by the term. ( Example : searching for “gay” as a keyword will produce citations about the 18 th century writer John Gay and about Nietzsche's book The Gay Science , as well as to documents relating to gay literature.) For totally comprehensive searching, you may need to use both keywords and descriptors.


To determine whether or not a word or phrase has been used as a descriptor, use the Thesaurus.

You may launch a search from within the thesaurus. Simply click on the boxes beside the terms you want to search, select either “and,” “or,” or “explode,” and then “Search.”

Author names

MLAIB uses Lastname, Firstname(s) order for searching the authors of the documents (articles, books, book chapters, dissertations, etc.) in the database. Because document authors may have used variations of their name in different publications, it is best to start a document author search from the Index. To do this,

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