You can narrow your results by searching for terms within a certain database record "field" (e.g. author field, title field, keyword field)
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.
- To access it, click on the purple “Search Tools” tab and, from the next screen, click on the light purple “Thesaurus” tab.
- Next, choose whether you want the “Personal Names” thesaurus, which is used to identify the exact form of either a literary author's or scholar's name used by the database, or the general thesaurus, used for all other terms (e.g., concepts, theories, symbols, genres, critical approaches, etc.).
- Then, select whether you want the thesaurus to display alphabetically (the default display), as a rotated index (which displays each word in the thesaurus regardless of whether it is the first, second, etc. word in a phrase), or by hierarchy (which shows hierarchical relationships between terms). For example , you might use the Rotated Index to determine all the descriptors in the database that contain the word “science.”
- The Hierarchical Index, on the other hand, will show you broader, narrower, and related terms for the descriptor “Science Fiction.”
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.”
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,
- Click on the purple Search Tools tab
- Click on the lighter purple “Indexes” tab
- Select “Author Index” in the top box, and type your author's Last Name, First Name (or Initial)
- From the results, mark all variants of the name that you believe are your author
- Click on “Or,” and then on “Search.”