ENGL 1230W - Romanticism - Kim

Selecting a Database: MLA vs. JSTOR

Is one database better than another?

It depends! When selecting a database, it's important to think about the content and date coverage of a database and how that correlates to the types of sources you need for your project.

The Finding Articles section of this guide highlights a selection of databases that might be relevant to your research area of interest. Of these databases, you will most likely work with MLA International Bibliography and JSTOR.

JSTOR? I love JSTOR! I'm going to use that database for my project.

JSTOR is an excellent database, and as a full-text database it offers researchers instant gratification with full-text PDFs available for immediate download. However, relying solely on JSTOR as a source is not the best strategy and may impact the quality of your research and the paper you produce.

No way!

Way! JSTOR is a great database, but it has its limitations:

Content Coverage: JSTOR covers many different subject areas, but within each subject area it only covers a subset of the available scholarly journals for that discipline. While these journals are core to the discipline they only capture a portion of the scholarly conversation on any given topic. By limiting yourself to JSTOR you will miss out on scholarly content available through other resources.

Date Coverage: As a rule. do not expect find recently published articles in JSTOR. JSTOR's purpose is to provide full-text access to historical content from the available journals. It is not uncommon to find that articles published in the last 5-10 years are not available. If you are looking for articles published in the last 5 years, JSTOR is not the database for you!

Full-text Searching is a Skill: Searching a full-text database can be a wonderful experience until it's not. Precision searching is the key to successfully searching a full-text database. You really need to work on developing a good search strategy and leveraging all the tools available in the Advanced Search. A poorly constructed search strategy will lead to a result set with many irrelevant hits and research headaches.

So I should use MLA?

Most definitely! You may need to consult additional resources depending on your topic, but you should definitely start with MLA International Bibliography.  MLA is a key database for anyone conducting research in literature, literary theory, and literary criticism.

But MLA doesn't have full-text like JSTOR.

True. While there is some full-text available in the database, MLA is mainly a citation database. Don't let that discourage you! Consider this:

1. Locating full-text for an item in MLA is as easy as clicking this button                             . Using the Find it @ VU button connects you to all the available access points for an item. You will have the opportunity to discover resources that are not available in JSTOR. You can even discover sources that we don't have access to here at Vanderbilt, but we can connect you to those too using Interlibrary Loan.

2. MLA includes records for journal articles, book chapters, books, proceedings, and dissertations. JSTOR will only give you articles.

3. MLA includes current as well as historical scholarship. Want to see the latest publications on Alexander Pope? MLA has you covered.

4. MLA provides comprehensive coverage of the scholarly landscape for language and literature research. If you only have time to search one resource, make it MLA!

I'm definitely using MLA!