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EH556 -- Victorian Literature: Books: Content Type and Location

This Library Guide directs you to print and electronic information sources for Victorian Literature in all genres: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama. The Guide is selective, not comprehensive; the sources listed are representative of their type.

Reference Books by Content Type and Location

Reference Books for Literature

In the fields of literature and the other humanities, reference books can be broadly subdivided into two types: reference sources and reference tools.  Each type has its particular role in the research process.  The print reference collections on floors 2, 3, 6, and 7 of Houston Cole Library are particularly fine.  Given the cross-disciplinary nature of contemporary scholarship, a walk through these reference sections is worth the time expended. 

Reference Sources

These for the most part are dictionaries, encyclopedias, reader's guides, handbooks, and manuals, and their defining characteristic is that their content is arranged in paragraphs.  Reference sources

  • contextualize a topic by providing background information or overviews 
  • offer possibilities for narrowing a topic to a subject suitable for in-depth research 
  • define and offer information about unfamiliar people, places, and things encountered further along in the research process
  • provide citations to more in-depth sources germane to the subject researched
  • expand knowledge of the broad topic through the process of turning pages to reach the information sought 
  • contain information that either is not present or not harvestable from an online database     

Additionally, reference sources can  

  • help students prepare for exams (especially comprehensive examinations for degrees)                                           
  • provide students enough basic information to participate in class discussions
  • help teachers prepare lesson plans for things which will be covered in class but which are not a major part of the syllabus   

NOTE: Reference sources are included among the records indexed in Discovery Search and JSU's online databases.  However, the population of such records is comparatively small and sometimes does not represent the best sources available. 

Reference Tools

Primarily these are (print) bibliographies and indexes.  (An online database that offered full text would be a hybrid source/tool.)  The role of reference sources is to help define, refine, and contextualize a topic.  The role of reference tools is to direct the researcher to in-depth scholarship on that topic.


  • list citations of information sources for works by an author (primary) or about an author or that author's work (secondary)
    • may also focus on a literary period, genre, or other demographic
  • list citations for information of various content types (books, chapters in books, journal articles, etc.)
  • often have introductions which provide helpful contextualizing/overview information
  • often are annotated (an annotation is the print equivalent of an abstract in an online database)
  • often have deeper backfiles than online databases
  • often, in addition to the citation for the original publication, provide cross references and citations for reprints; online databases do not do this


  • are the pre-cursors of online databases
    • have deeper backfiles than databases, sometimes offering coverage as far back as 1900
  • cover diverse disciplines (e.g., Art Index, General Science Index, Humanities Index) 
  • list citations, for both primary and secondary works, for periodical publications only ( the exception is the Essay & General Literature Index, which does something none of the other H. W. Wilson indexes do and which the databases do poorly if at all: trace essays and individual chapters in books, whether anthologies or books by a single author

NOTE:  As with databases, in using indexes the approach to the researched subject can be important in selecting which index(es) to consult.  No single index is comprehensive in scope.  As part of the front matter, the index should list the subjects it covers and the journals it covers.  These limiters should apply to the databases as well.

Searching JaxCat for Reference Works by Content Type

Search algorithm

  • go to JaxCat Advanced/Keyword Search
  • ‚Äčin the top search box type the subject term (as a phrase from central dropdown box if it is a multiple word term)
    • keep AND Boolean operator as the default
  • in  the middle search box type the type of reference work you want 
  • <Search>

Example 1:  victorian literature <as a phrase>

         AND    bibliography

Example 2:  victorian 

         AND   encyclopedia

NOTE:  These searches will harvest both circulating and reference books.  To filter the results to only reference, in the "within" dropdown box type a limiter such as "subject" or "title."  These are examples of the most common types of searches, but they will not harvest everything.  For example, they will miss records with outlier terms like "cyclopedia" or "bio-critical."

By-publisher search

                   facts on file <as a phrase>        (Facts on File is a gold standard publisher of reference sources on literature.)

     AND      companion

Searching JaxCat for Reference Works by Location

Search algorithm

  • go to JaxCat Advanced/Keyword Search
  • ‚Äčin the top search box type the subject term (as a phrase from central dropdown box if it is a multiple word term)
  • in  the middle search box type the type of reference work you want (in the Location search this step is optional and may even be redundant)
  • from the Add Limits pane go to the Location dropdown, and from that menu select Reference Collection
  • <Search>

Since it can block circulating materials from the search results, the Location search is more precise and delivers a "cleaner" set of results which also is shorter than would be a similar search by Content Type.  However, nether singly nor in tandem can these searches harvest item records for all the reference books on literature, and this fact is what makes advisable a walk-through of the reference collections in Houston Cole Library..