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EN 104 - America: Land of Promise?


This is a guide to selected sources of information related to Professor DePino's course on the American Dream. It is meant as a starting point for your research. For further research assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk in person or email us at Ask a Librarian.


Research Basics

The Geisel Library website includes a Research Help page, which contains numerous guides to using library resources and finding information. 


Background Information

Use the following reference resources to get background information on authors, literary works, themes, and time periods being discussed in this course. In addition to providing background information these reference sources can be helpful for brainstorming keywords and concepts. Also take note of the bibliographies at the end of entries, these works will get you started in locating key pieces of research on your topic.

E-Reference Databases

Literature Resource Center

Credo Reference

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL)

Oxford Reference Online (ORO)

Individual Reference Titles

American Writers (13 vols.)
     Ref PS129 .A55

Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature
     Ref PS153 .I52 C36

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism
     E184 .A1 E58

Encyclopedia of Rural America:  The Land and People
     Ref E169.12. E53

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century

Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (5 vols.)
     Ref E740.7 .E53

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life in America

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature (5 vols.)
     Ref PS153.M56 G74

Handbook of North American Indians
     Ref E77 .H25

Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups
     Ref E184.A1 H35

Hispanic Literature of the United States
     Ref PS153 .H56 K36

The Mexican American Experience: An Encyclopedia
     Ref E185 .M5 M4535


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Find Books/Secondary Sources

Search the Geisel Library Catalog to locate books, government documents and web materials on your topic. There are two ways to search the library catalog, by subject heading or by keyword. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, it is important therefore to know the best time to use each method.

Subject Headings Searches

Subject headings are keywords that are assigned to books to capture the item's key subject matter and themes. Use subject headings to look for books on broad concepts such as pioneers and farm life. Examples of Subject Headings relevant to this course include:

Keyword Searches

Keyword Searches work best if you are researching a narrow concept or if you have an author or title of which you would like criticism. Keyword searches will look for your search term(s) in the citation, subject headings, and chapter titles (if available). Many books on literary criticism have chapters on specific authors or works, this search method will pull up those materials.

Examples of Keyword Searches relevant to this course include:

  • (farm* or land or migration or west or family) and (steinbeck or ingalls wilder)
  • (social class or social mobility) and United States
  • great depression and (letter* or diar* or correspondence or journal)
  • steinbeck and (critic* or analysis)

If you have searched the Geisel Library Catalog but could not locate a book on your topic try searching WorldCat, a database that allows you to search the collections of libraries throughout the United States. If you find a book that you want you can request it through interlibrary loan (ILL) by clicking on the "Request via Interlibrary Loan link" in the book's catalog record.


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Journal Articles

Before you start searching for articles in online journal databases there are a two things you need to be aware of:

When examining your search results you may come across the WebBridge icon. This icon means that the full text is not available in the database you are currently searching. To locate the full text, simply click on the icon to determine whether the journal is available in Geisel Library or in another electronic database. If the article isn't available, click on the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be delivered to your email inbox in approximately 3-7 business days. To learn about how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins; includes audio).

Journal Finder
If you find a citation to an article in the bibliography of a book or article you can use Journal Finder to see whether or not Geisel Library has access to the volume and issue that you need. Simply type in the name of the journal in Journal Finder and click search. If we have access to that title Journal Finder will tell you where you can locate it (either electronically or in print). If we do not have access to the journal you need you can place an interlibrary loan request for that item. To learn more on how to use Journal Finder watch our video tutorial.

Core English Research Databases

MLA International Bibliography
Use to research literary criticism on a specific author or work.

Literature Resource Center
Use to research literary criticism on a specific author or work.

Academic Search Premier
Use to research literary criticism on a specific author or work.

ProQuest Central
Use to research literary criticism on a specific author or work.

Additional Research Databases

America History and Life
Use to research North American history

Historical Abstracts
Use to research non-North American history

Use JSTOR to perform an interdisciplinary search on your topic (this database searches the back issues of journals)

Project MUSE
Use Project Muse to pull up research on your topic from a variety of different disciplines.

Use to locate research that discusses the state of the American Dream in today's society.


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Selected Websites

These websites were handpicked for their relevance to your course topic. You may also want to conduct keyword searching on your topics in a search engine such as Google, but be sure to look for indications that the websites you find are authoritative, objective and reliable. For help with this, see our guide to Evaluating Websites.

American Memory
Library of Congress

Digital History
University of Houston

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930
Harvard University

Living History Farm

National Institute of Food and Agriculture:  Small & Family Farms
United States Department of Agriculture

Steinbeck Quarterly Journal
Ball State University

Voices from the Gaps
University of Minnesota


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Citing Sources

For assistance with formatting your citations in MLA style, consult your copy of Doing Honest Work in College or ask for the MLA Handbook (Ready Ref LB2369 .G53) at the library's reference desk. You can also find links to online citation guides on the library's Citing Sources webpage.


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