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EH 315/513: Studies in Chaucer: Finding and Using Books


To find books and government documents in USA Libraries' collections, use SOUTHcat: USA Libraries' Catalog.

  • Catalog tips and tricks:
    • Keyword searches – use quotation marks to hold phrases together ("greek mythology")
    • Truncation – use ? after the root of a word to find all its variants (god?, finds both gods and goddesses)
    • Browse the Subject(s) field in records to find the right words for searches. (Example: Try doing a keyword search for "greek mythology" poems then look at the subject(s) field in several records. You’ll see that the subject term could be Mythology, Greek -- Poetry. Click the subject heading to find more records with this subject.)
  • Revise and refine your searches. Combine words or phrases.
  • Watch for repeating call numbers and browse stacks in that area.
  • Pay attention to the Location and Status fields. You will need this information to locate the item in the library.

Something to Keep in Mind

Remember, when conducting research in a literary topic, think outside of the simple author or title search.  Instead think broadly at the types of issues or tropes of interest.

Example: Gender AND chaucer

chaucer AND language

chaucer AND religion



Searching SOUTHcat

Search techniques may vary with each database, so look at help screens or ask a librarian for suggestions about using quotation marks and truncation symbols.

Leave out the word "and" when doing a keyword search on SOUTHcat, since this is automatically added if the phrase is not in quotes. Put phrases in quotation marks to search as a phrase. Use ? as a truncation or wildcard symbol in the catalog. Use Advanced Boolean Search for combinations of concepts and phrases.

Watch this short video (about 4 minutes) for a review of searching SouthCat.

(Note: It's much better to watch this video on a laptop or desktop computer! It might be hard to see the detail if you watch on your phone.)

You can access SOUTHcat from the Marx Library homepage.

Subscription E-Books

The USA Libraries subscribe to several subscription e-book collections. These collections tend to focus on a specific discipline or field of study in their coverage.

How to Use a Book

How to Gut a Book

  • Table of Contents--this is a DUH!
  • Read the intro chapter (or chapter one as the case may be) closely.
    • The author(s) *should* lay out their thesis and basic sub arguments here–even stubborn authors like myself succumb to editorial pressure and start writing sentences like “In this book I argue…” Look for “keywords” that are associated with that scholar(s) to discern what they’re going to do. Here they often give a lineup of what is to come in each subsequent chapter or essay.
  • Read the first few paragraphs and the last few paragraphs of each chapter carefully looking for specific patterns and evidence proffered in relation to the thesis.
    • look for subheadings–stop at these–the title will give you clues to the sub-arguments that the author is using to establish her thesis. 
    • the last few paragraphs probably link back to BOTH the main thesis and the sub-argument of the chapter. Read these closely.
  •  Read the conclusion closely.
    • the conclusion should wrap back around and reiterate the thesis while also suggesting links to sub-arguments and also ways forward for piggyback research etc.
  • Read any extended or block quotes in a chapter. 
    • If a scholar is using precious page space to quote another scholar or author at length then it’s significant…either because it supports the primary scholar’s argument (or he/she has built his/her argument out of that scholar’s idea) OR the primary scholar is trying to dispute the quoted scholar.  Either way, it’s important to understanding the primary argument.
  • Read footnotes (or endnotes as the case may be) & the bibliography

    • scholars are notorious for “hiding” some of their best, and most illuminating, ideas in the notes.  
    • one can also build one’s own bibliography from other’s bibliographies and footnotes, always make your own “to read” list--pearl growing. 
  • Use the index--another DUH!