Understanding the MLA International Bibliography: An Online Course
The MLA has developed an online course to teach students how to use the MLA International Bibliography for college-level research. Each of the five units in the course presents a lesson, followed by progression questions to reinforce the lesson through active engagement with the bibliography, and a quiz. Students will receive a badge upon passing each quiz and a course-completion badge after completing all the lessons and passing all five quizzes.
The course usually takes students ninety minutes or less to complete and requires that they have access to the MLA International Bibliography on the EBSCO platform through their institution’s library. Students can create a free account to take the course and start earning badges.
In January 2018, the MLA launched four new subject area modules to accompany its online course Understanding the MLA International Bibliography. Each module focuses on searching the bibliography for scholarly publications in one of four disciplines: folklore, linguistics, film (including television, video, and other broadcast media), and rhetoric and composition. Students who complete the new modules can earn badges in each of these four subject areas. Visit the course site to access the main course and new modules.
Interested in other resources for teaching research and information literacy? Visit the Teaching Resources page on The MLA Style Center, where you’ll find lesson plans, assignments, and an instructor’s guide to integrating the online course into class curricula.
The MLA International Bibliography offers an extensive tutorial video series on searching the bibliography. New tutorials are released every few months. If you have a suggestion for a topic that you’d like to see covered in a tutorial, please let us know.
Please feel free to link to our tutorials, embed them in syllabi or LibGuides, and share them with anyone who might find them useful.
Where to Find the Bibliography
The MLA International Bibliography is available as an online database through libraries that subscribe to it. To determine whether the MLA International Bibliography is available at your academic institution or public library, you should first visit the library Web site.
On the library’s home page, look for a link to e-Research, Research tools, Find articles, or Databases and click on the associated hyperlink.
Since your library probably subscribes to many databases, it may provide a list of titles to navigate (arranged alphabetically or by subject). Click on “M” and scroll to MLA, search for “MLA,” or click on a subject such as literature or language. If your library subscribes, you will see a link to the MLA International Bibliography.
To access the MLA International Bibliography, you may need to sign in using your library card or institution ID and password. Consult your librarian if you have difficulty locating or logging in to our database.
How to Search the Bibliography
Using the MLA International Bibliography begins with a search. The bibliography offers many search options, which can be selected and combined to tailor the results to the researcher’s specific needs. These options include
literary authors and their works(e.g., “Achebe, Chinua”; “Things Fall Apart”)
subject terms, including people, characters, places, periods, movements, and subject matter (e.g., “Wordsworth, William,” “Lake District,” “1700-1899,” “Romanticism,” and “landscape”)
titles of articles, books, and other scholarly works indexed in the bibliography
academic authors and their works (e.g., “Butler, Judith”; “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity”)
language of publication (e.g., “French language”)
date of publication (e.g., “2014,” “2005-2015”)
limit to peer-reviewed journal articles
A searchable list of all the subject terms in the bibliography and their related terms can be found in the MLA Thesaurus, included with every subscription.
The MLA International Bibliography also includes the Directory of Periodicals, which lists journals and book series indexed in the bibliography and provides extensive editorial information about them. Search the Directory of Periodicals to find a list of journals and book series on a given subject or to find detailed information on a specific journal or book series. Depending on which vendor provides the bibliography, you may see a separate link to the Directory of Periodicals on your library’s list of databases, or the directory may be accessed from the bibliography’s home page.
Accessing Full-Text Documents
While the bibliography itself does not contain the full text of the items it indexes, it provides a number of ways to link easily from a citation to the full text in another location.
First, citations in the bibliography are formatted in a way that supports standard linking mechanisms available at most academic libraries. These include linking to full text available online through the library Web site, locating a print version in the library’s collection, locating an item in another library through WorldCat, and requesting an item through interlibrary loan. The vendors that host the bibliography also may provide direct links to full text in their other database products available at the library.
In addition, the bibliography provides links to full text as part of the indexing record whenever possible. Except for materials that are freely accessible on the Web, the degree of access to the full-text records will vary, depending on whether the library has subscribed to the products containing the full text. Links of this sort include
Links that go directly to items available freely on the Web
Links to items we have indexed that are available in the JSTOR or Project MUSE databases. (For more information about JSTOR and Project MUSE, visit their sites at http://www.jstor.org and http://muse.jhu.edu/.)
DOIs (digital object identifiers). These are unique identification codes that link to the site where a document is stored online.
Links to items we have indexed from the ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database, which has archived over 2.4 million dissertations and master’s theses from academic institutions throughout the world; most are available in full text in print, microform, and digital formats.
The MLA International Bibliography and ORCID
The MLA International Bibliography has partnered with ORCID, a not-for-profit organization that provides researchers with unique digital identifiers to distinguish themselves from others with similar names.
The purpose of the ORCID registry is to clearly and definitively differentiate one author from another by creating a unique identification tag: the ORCID identifier. The ORCID identifier is initiated by scholars or by their institutions. It is then used by universities, publishers, and other organizations, such as the MLA, to differentiate authorship of the publications in their files. ORCID aims to create a clear, permanent record of scholarship that transcends “discipline, geographic, national and institutional boundaries.”
To claim your ORCID identifier using MLA bibliography records and to fill in your publication history, go to biblink.mla.org. Alternatively, Biblink can be accessed through the main ORCID site at orcid.org by selecting MLA International Bibliography under Link Works.
The MLA International Bibliography contains citations to over 2.8 million scholarly publications, including print and electronic books, journal articles, and Web sites. Publications must meet certain criteria, including standards of form and content, to be included.
Citations in the MLA International Bibliography are indexed by subject terms and may include abstracts and links to full text where available online. For more on subject indexing, visit our page on the MLA Thesaurus. For more information on full-text links, see “Accessing Full Text Documents” on our page about Using the MLA International Bibliography.
The MLA provides a list of essay collections indexed in the MLA International Bibliography as well as a list of all journals indexed in the bibliography since 1926. MLA members can search the MLA Directory of Periodicals, an online database of journals and series. Searchable Web site listings from the MLA International Bibliography are also available to members.
Indexers generally use the full text of items when indexing. Exceptions are books by a single author (or multiple authors writing collaboratively) and critical editions and translations of literary works. For these, bibliographers may as necessary base their indexing on front matter, such as the table of contents, introduction, or foreword, supplemented by other materials provided by the publisher and related book reviews.
Criteria for Inclusion in the MLA Bibliography
The MLA International Bibliography lists published works written for a scholarly audience as well as those of interest to scholars written for general audiences. Works listed may be in any language and from any place of origin and in any medium, physical or electronic, including film, audio, and microform. Both restricted-access and open-access electronic materials are included.
In general, only original publications or revised editions of previously published works are listed. Reprints are not listed unless they are of significant scholarly works otherwise unavailable to the scholarly community. Self-published materials are not included.
Most of the materials listed in the bibliography were published after 1926. However, some publications from as early as 1866 have been included, primarily as a result of our indexing of the JSTOR Language and Literature periodicals collection. The majority of works represented on the teaching of language, the teaching of literature, and rhetoric and composition have been published from 1998 to the present.
Subject Matter Indexed
The bibliography indexes works published in the following subject areas:
Literature from any country and in any language (except certain classical languages in some cases; see below)
Literary theory and criticism
Dramatic arts (theater, film, radio, television, opera, video)
Rhetoric and composition, including literary and nonliterary rhetoric and both written and oral discourse
History of printing and publishing
University-level teaching of language, literature, and rhetoric and composition
Not covered are works exclusively on classical Greek or Latin literature, on religious texts such as the Bible or the Koran (unless as they relate to other literature or language topics within the scope of the bibliography), and on aesthetics, human behavior, communication, and information processes (unless they treat human language or literature).
Types of Materials Indexed
Materials indexed include
scholarly books, articles, journals, and collections of essays
dictionaries, catalogs, handbooks, bibliographies, indexes, and other reference works
conference papers and proceedings
critical editions and translations of literary works, when accompanied by a new critical or bibliographic apparatus or are based on a newly established authoritative text
dissertations available through stable repositories
scholarly Web sites
Materials not indexed include
fiction, poetry, and other works of creative writing
book reviews, with the exception of review articles that provide scholarly and thematic context and significant depth of analysis
letters to editors, obituary notices, and similar materials, unless they make a significant contribution to scholarship
individual entries in reference books
textbooks, syllabi, courseware, lesson plans, and how-to guides
master’s theses, guides that are essentially plot summaries, and other apprentice or simplified works
electronic journals that do not meet our current guidelines