Doing the PhD

a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial

3 Building a bibliography

3.2 How to start building up your bibliography

The primary source for your general bibliography may well be your supervisor. But this depends on how close your supervisor's research is to yours. There are a number of research strategies that can direct you towards the literature and research materials you will need to consult. Better to do the initial work yourself and then discuss the material you have collated with your supervisor.

Knowledge gained through your Masters research
If you attended an MA module or wrote an MA dissertation that inspired you to take your research further to PhD level, then this will be your starting point. Review the bibliographies of books and articles you have already compiled and branch out from there. Undertaking library or internet searches will allow you to find out whether the authors most relevant to your enquiry have published other works that could potentially take your line of thought further or deepen your knowledge in a particular area.

Books and articles on your topic
Do library catalogue and internet searches on your topic and the authors you are investigating and then scan the bibliographies of any secondary or related primary literature. Select titles of works that seem appropriate and start organizing them in your own bibliography. Most libraries will not offer you the possibility of doing searches for article titles or chapters in collections (there are exceptions: The Goldsmiths Library for example). But there are databases (at The British Library for example) which allow you to run through a multitude of journals by inputting author/subject and title searches. In this way you can very effectively build up large resources of literature specifically geared towards your interests.

The MLA International Bibliography is a bibliographic database that lists published scholarly documents on literature, modern language, linguistics, and folklore. The MLA records consist primarily of references to journal articles, books, and book chapters. Literary works and translations are included only if they are newly discovered or rare works or editions that are accompanied by critical or bibliographical notes. Subjects covered are National Literatures, Linguistics, Languages, Literary Theory & Criticism, Literary Forms & Genres, Folklore, and Dramatic Arts. You will be able to consult the MLA International Bibliography at your University Library - as an imprint before the year 2000 and in later editions through CD-ROM facilities.

The www
Apart from databases that are owned by a particular institution or library and for that reason will have to be consulted at the location, you can also make productive use of the internet. Focus specifically on OPACs, metaopacs and portals, as these give you access to an unlimited amount of organized information at once.

Languages resources
Our Languages section will permit you to browse vast resources of digital information, but also direct you towards different libraries, archives, and institutions that might be useful:

Breaking down your work-in-progress bibliography
As well as searching for materials on your topic you will also want to familiarize yourself with the appropriate methodological and theoretical approaches for your topic. This may mean creating separate bibliographies, for example on narratology, psychoanalysis, social theory - depending on what might prove a useful route into examining your primary material. Breaking down your bibliography into different sections will help you to keep an overview of your own different research strategies and accumulate the literature necessary to substantiate your arguments.