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Primary, Secondary, Tertiary (Reference) Sources for English and American Literature

Secondary Sources


The best way to find articles is to look through the University of Iowa Libraries' databases. As we have over a thousand databases to peruse, you might want to limit which databases you are interested in by discipline. Most likely, you'll want English and American Literature. But, if you are working on an interdisciplinary topic, you might want to check out databases affiliated with other departments, such as History or Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies (GWSS). To find other departments' databases, go to the databases page and then select the "All Subjects" pull down bar at the top of the page right under the search bar. Then select which department might be of most use to you. 


To find a book in InfoHawk+, go to the InfoHawk+ search page, select "Library Catalogs" in the pull down menu on the left hand side of the search bar, and make sure you place any names or phrases in quotation marks. Otherwise, the search will look for each word independently. Then, limit your search to "Books" in the "Resource Type" left hand menu. You might want to try other limiters from the left-hand menu. For example, if you want a copy of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, scroll down to the "Author/Creator" limiter and choose "Melville, Herman" to get our editions of the classic novel. However, if you are interested in monographs (scholarly books) about Moby Dick, you could select other authors listed under the "Author/Creator" limiter OR try the "Creation Date" limiter to get the most current research on the novel.

Other Resources

Advanced Topics




Search Tips

  • Patience: Click past the first page of hits 
  • Topics: Look to see if similar sources are listed through a topic link (like a tag) under a particular source
  • Boolean Operators: Use and, or, not to separate search words/phrases
  • Truncation: Use an asterisk to find different versions of the same word 
  • Synonyms: Use an alternative word


Amy Chen's picture
Amy Chen
University Libraries
100 Main Library
Iowa City, IA 52242