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English Literature: researching your dissertation: Finding relevant books

This guide gives an overview of the range of resources available to you when researching your dissertation topic. Topics covered include developing effective search strategies and finding scholarly primary and secondary source material.

Finding books and e-books

Finding books and e-books on a specific topic, author or genre

  • Use Enterprise to search either for books you already know about or for books on your chosen topic.
  • Use simple keyword searches to find titles with relevant search terms, or use the subject headings to widen your search and increase your search results.
  • You can further refine your results using the options on the left hand side of the screen. 

The Library website provides tips on searching for books on a topic and on Looking at your Enterprise search results.

​Using our e-book collections

Using our e-book collections

The Library subscribes to several large e-book collections as well as individual e-book titles. Many of the titles are on Enterprise, so you can search for titles or topics using the Library catalogue.

However you may also want to search across a specific collection at chapter level, for keywords related to your subject, for example. You may find the following collections particularly useful:

For an idea of how to make the best use of these types of resources, see the online tutorial for Oxford Handbooks in the box below, or take a 'tour' of Cambridge Companions.

How to use Oxford Handbooks Online

You can access Oxford Handbooks Online from here

Cambridge Companions Online

Take a guided tour of Cambridge Companions Online
(6MB Powerpoint presentation produced by Cambridge University Press)

Refining search results on Enterprise: examples

Using subject headings
To make use of subject headings to widen your search results, either search Enterprise for books on a particular topic, or search for a book which you have already found that is relevant to your subject. Then use the hyperlinked subject terms listed within the record for the item on Enterprise, to either narrow or widen your search results.
In this example, searching Enterprise for 'first world war poetry' brings up 24 items on the catalogue. By selecting the subject term World War, 1914-1918 -- Poetry. in the record of a relevant title, provides a list of 74 items relevant to this subject.

Using synonyms
Also make use of synonyms when searching Enterprise, Summon or any other bibliographic database. For example, you may get a wider range of results if you search for 'Victorian' OR '19th Century', than just using one of these terms.

Finding book chapters on a topic (online only)

Our Summon Discovery Service will allow you to search for book chapters (as well as journal articles and newspaper articles etc.) on particular topics across our e-resources subscriptions.

Go to the Library website for advice on making the most of Summon including search tips and saving results. 

Search Summon now using the box below:

Getting books not held at Reading

Our Inter-Library Loans service can get books not held at Reading from other libraries (usually from the British Library).

For more information see our webpages: