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EN 104 - The Language of Power and the Power of Language


This is a guide to selected sources of information related to the power of language. It is meant as a starting point for your research. For further research assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk in person or pose your question online 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. Included is a Research Strategy guide that walks you through the seven steps of doing successful college-level research, as well as a number of helpful video tutorials. Please take advantage of these resources.


Find Background Information

Before looking for books and journal articles on your topic, it is helpful to explore reference resources such as subject-specific encyclopedias. These resources can provide background information on authors and literary works, as well as the social issues, historical periods, and themes being addressed in this course. They can also help you identify keywords to search in the online catalog and journal databases. Print reference books are in the Reference Collection on the library's main level, while online reference sources are listed on the E-Reference Resources webpage.

Starting Points

Concise Encyclopedia of Sociolinguistics
A great entry point for researching many topics in this class, including bilingualism, identity and language, social class, minority languages, and power differentials.

Credo Reference
Find entries from encyclopedias of anthropology, history, psychology, and other fields of study.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online
Find overviews on a wide variety of topics by searching this online encyclopedia. This is a good source for obtaining background info and finding good keywords that represent your topic.

Oxford Reference Online
This database includes many reference works in the fields of literature and history. These are good for basic background information on authors and historical events.

Additional Resources

Dictionary of Native American Literature
     Ref PM155 .D53

Encyclopedia of American Social Movements (4 vols.)
     Ref HN57 .E594

Encyclopedia of Communication and Information (3 vols.)
     Ref P87.5 .E53

Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe
     Ref P380 .E53

Encyclopedia of Race and Racism
     Available in Gale Virtual Reference Center

Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450 (3 vols.)
     Ref JV22 .E535

Handbook of Native American Indians, vol. 17 (Languages)
     Ref E77 .H25

Handbook of Social Psychology (entry on Language and Social Behavior)
     Ref HM251 .H224

Literature Resource Center
This database includes lengthy biographical profiles of authors, plot summaries, and literary criticism for thousands of novelists, poets, and other writers.   User Guide

The World's Major Languages
     Ref P371 .W6


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Find Books

Geisel Library Catalog
To find books on your topic in the Geisel Library collection, you will want to try a combination of Keyword and Subject searching in the catalog. First, try searching Keywords that represent your topic of interest. Use the Boolean AND to combine together multiple concepts, and use the Boolean OR to expand your search with synonyms and related terms. Use the * (asterisk) to retrieve variant forms of a word; for example, racis* will find books with the words "racist" or "racism" in the catalog record.

Here are some examples:

  • media AND power
  • (postcolonial OR post-colonial) AND literature
  • language AND (racis* OR imperialis*)
  • bilingual AND (educat* OR school*)

Also try searching some of the phrases below as Subject Headings in the catalog. Subject headings are assigned to books to describe their primary subject matter and themes. Subject searching is effective for finding books about broad concepts like "social aspects of the media" or "racism in language". If you are researching a particular author or work, try searching the author's name as a Subject to locate biographies and literary criticism.

  • Communication - Social aspects
  • Discourse analysis
  • English language - Social aspects - United States
  • Imperialism
  • Imperialism in literature
  • Language and culture
  • Language and education
  • Language obsolescence
  • Mass media - Political aspects
  • Mass media - Social aspects
  • [Name of Language] language - History (for example, "French language - history")
  • Racism in language
  • Sexism in language
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Speech and social status

Here are some books found through keyword and subject searching:

English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States
     PE2808.8 .L57

Language Policy and Identity Politics in the United States
     P119.32.U6 S36

Language, Society, and Power: An Introduction
     P107 .L36

Modernism and the Post-Colonial: Literature and Empire, 1885-1930
     PR771 .C47

The Origins and Development of the English Language
     PE1075 .P9

The Story of French
     PC2075 .N33

If you are unable to locate enough materials in the Geisel Library catalog, search the collections of libraries worldwide using WorldCat. This enables you to identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use, via our Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. Try searching the same keywords and subject headings that you used in the library catalog. If you find a relevant book, click on the title and look for the Request ILL link. Once you submit the request, the book is typically delivered to Geisel Library within 7–8 days.


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Find Journal Articles


To search for journal articles across multiple databases at once, try CrossSearch. This tool allows you to select either subject categories or individual databases that relate to your topic, enter your keywords, and run the search. For papers with a literary focus, search the English subject category; for other topics, you may wish to search in General, History, and/or Sociology. CrossSearch displays the first 20 results from each database. If an article looks useful, click on the WebBridge icon to see if it is available in full-text or in Geisel Library's periodicals collection.

Starting your article search in CrossSearch can help you gauge how many articles are available about your topic, and pinpoint which databases are worth exploring individually. You can then run additional searches in those databases, where you can take advantage of limiters and subject terms to zero in on the best articles for your topic. For tips on using CrossSearch, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins.; includes audio).

Individual Databases

Below are several databases that may yield useful journal articles for your research. Try searching on the same keywords that you used in the book catalog, combining concepts together using the Boolean AND and OR operators. Once you find relevant articles, examine the subject headings that have been assigned to them and conduct Subject searches on the ones that seem most potentially fruitful.

If there is no link to the full text of an article you want, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in the Geisel Library or in full-text via another electronic database. If the article isn't available, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Within a week, you should receive an email indicating that the article is available to access. To learn how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 mins.; includes audio).

Academic Search Premier
Provides abstracts and some full-text of scholarly and popular journals for a range of academic areas, including literature, politics, and sociology.

America:  History and Life
The best place to start for topics involving United States history. Be sure to use the Historical Period From/To limiter (down below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Historical Abstracts
The best place to start for world history outside the US. Use the Historical Period From/To limiter (down below the full text limiter checkboxes) to specify your time period of interest.

Search here for full-text articles from major scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences.    User Guide

Literature Resource Center
Limit the content type to "Literature Criticism" to find the full text of journal articles on works of literature from more than 100 literary journals.    User Guide

MLA International Bibliography
Start here for papers with a literary focus. This database provides citations for articles pertaining to literature, language, linguistics, and folklore.

Project MUSE
This database offers full-text articles from nearly 200 peer-reviewed journals in the humanities, arts, medicine, and the social sciences.

An excellent starting point for social perspectives on language issues. This sociology database provides full-text journal articles and citations to books and conference papers.


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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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