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Creative Writing

Researching your main topic

The main topic is the subject of your story. This could be many things, an event (historical or personal), a pastime, a medical condition, a scientific phenomenon, etc. The sky is the limit, so here are some suggestions for locating the information resources most likely to help you.

Reference Works

Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other resources to help you discover basic information—names, dates, definitions, summaries, etc. These are good places to start when narrowing or choosing your topic, and when beginning research on an unfamiliar subject.


Oxford Reference Online - A collection of online reference works. You can search across all subject areas (the default), or use the Search within my subject specializations menu to narrow your search to specific subject areas.

Gale Virtual Reference Library -  A collection of online reference works.  You can search across all subject areas (the default), or use the Advanced Search to narrow your search to specific subject areas.

Subject specific

Research Guides - Click on the By Subject link to view a list of guides to subject-specific library resources. See the Background Information section of any of the guides for specialized reference works.


Books can offer both more lengthy overview and in depth treatment of a subject whereas articles, particularly those in professional or scholarly journals, tend to be narrowly focused. However, books do take longer to write, edit and publish than journal articles so the information they contain may not be as up to date as that found in more frequently published periodicals.

Five College Catalog - Search for books in all of the Five College libraries. If you find a book at one of the colleges other than Mount Holyoke, use Request Item to get it delivered to MHC's library.

WorldCat - Worldcat is the combined catalog of the holdings of most major academic and research libraries across the United States as well as of some international libraries.  If you find an item in Worldcat that's not held in any of the Five College Libraries, use the Search MH Links link to request a book through interlibrary loan.


Articles can be found in publications called magazines, journals, periodicals, newspapers and other publications.  These may also be referred to as serials and have a set, regular publishing schedule e.g. daily, weekly, monthly annually, etc. Articles are good sources for the most recent research on a topic, coverage of a very narrow aspect of a topic, and coverage of current events.

Which article index or database do I use?

Research Guides The library's Research Guides are arranged by subject to help you target the information resources best suited to your topic.  Each Research Guide has its own, subject-specific Articles and Databases section/tab.

Discover Supersearch allows you to search multiple databases covering all subjects at once (and find books as well as articles).

Springshare's information on Accessibility in Libguides - - MHC Accessibility Barriers Form