Student Guide


What does the Encyclopedia contain?

Our records are organised into three databases:

  • People (writers, philosophers, scientists, artists, historical figures - religious, political, cultural)
  • Works (authored by the people listed in our database)
  • Topics & Events (containing cultural and literary topics and short historical notes of up to 250 words)

It is free to read short historical notes and the first 150 or so words of published entries on People, Works and Topics.

In addition to our main articles, The Literary Encyclopedia also incorporates a growing database of recommended critical bibliography, author chronologies, a database of recommended websites, reference groups, timelines and study tools (Stylebook and Glossary). See more below.

What kind of descriptive metadata do articles provide?

In the right panel relative to all articles, there are a number of sections which provide different functions and supplementary information about the person/ work/ topic/ event you are reading about:

  • the dates of birth/ activity for people, dates of publication/ performance/ circulation (whichever comes first) for works, dates of happening for topics & events
  • the places associated with a person's country of birth, or primary or secondary activity; place of origin of a work (usually the country of birth of the author of that work) and/ or place of publication; place of an event's location; places involved in that event
  • the domains, genres and modes, activities and cultural identities associated with particular topics, events, works and people

IMPORTANT! All domains, genres, activities and cultural identities shown in the right panel of an article are clickable and generate a pre-prepared list of other entries in the Encyclopedia that correspond to the same criteria - e.g. if an author is a Novelist and you click on the keyword novelist listed under Activities in the right panel, you will be shown a list of all novelists in our database; if you click on African-American under Cultural Identities, you will be presented with a list of all people entries tagged as African-American etc.

What kind of keywords (descriptive metadata) are used in the Encyclopedia? What is a Domain/Genre/Activity/ Cultural Identity? How are Place and Date used?

For People entries:

  • Activity = What a person does (e.g. Novelist, Playwright, Historian).
  • Cultural Identity = The particular cultural (which includes ethnic, racial, gender, sexual and political) identity a writer is usually identified with (i.e. African American, Jewish, Black British, Native American, Gay and Lesbian, Feminist etc.)

For Works entries:

Genres and Modes = What type of work it is (e.g. Novel, Tragedy, Pamphlet, Chamber music, Drawing etc.)

For Topics entries:

Domain = The general field which the Topic is part of (e.g. Religion and Spirituality, Music, Architecture etc.) and what sort of Topic it is (e.g. Battle, Theory, Method etc.). When the former is obvious, only the particular description of the topic is used.

All key terms are structured hierarchically, as a series of descriptive items subordinated to larger domains of activity. For instance, the complete hierarchical tree of a particular search-term might looks like this:

  • Arts and Humanities
    • Literature
      • Generic forms
        • Non-fictional Prose
          • Commentary & Criticism (literary)
  • Politics, Government and Administration
    • Legislation (Bills, Acts, Laws ...)
      • Business, Commerce and Trade
        • Employment & factories
  • Politics, Government and Administration
    • Political Violence
      • War
        • Civil Wars, Revolutions and Insurrections

All search-terms are organised along similar lines. Any search query using a term that is placed higher up in the hierarchical tree will therefore include in the result all subordinate terms. Thus, if one searches for, say, ‘prose fiction narrative’, the search query will find all such instances, including novels, stories, novellas etc. But if one searches only for ‘novella’, only the instances of ‘novellas’ will be found.

Some search terms are marked as ‘genres’ or ‘activities’. These are all included under the advanced search categories of ‘genre of text’ and ‘activity of person’.

If you cannot find all the results you would expect from a particular search (such as, for instance, comedy or tragedy), try using a larger search category such as, in this case, ‘play’ or ‘drama’!

Entries are also indexed by place of birth and activity (primary or secondary) for people; of origin and publication (for works); of location or involvement (for topics& events) AND date of birth/ death and activity for people; of publication, first circulation or first performance (whichever is earlier in time) for works; of happening or dominance for topics and events.

What's the difference between Quick search and Advanced Search?

The simple search window on the top menu bar searches all of our published entries in People, Works and Topics& Events for the term you enter, which means that you get more results. This makes it a good starting point if you want to perform a quick search, but this process is less accurate than using a calibrated search (for people, works or topics &events) or the Advanced Search options, as results are organised by frequency rather than by relevance. The calibrated quick search that appears when you select the people, works or topics options in the drop-down list underneath All Headwords looks for an exact match to the letters of the surname, title or topic heading that you type in.

The Advanced Search looks for entries which have indexing values that match those that you have set in the search. By using the advanced search function, readers can thus list authors according to genre, sex, period and culture, making it possible in a few seconds to see, for example, which women writers of poetry in English were flourishing in the world between 1910 and 1920. Because all our records are indexed using a combination of keywords, readers will be able to organise The Literary Encyclopedia to show, for example, lists of gothic novels or science fiction novels or tragic drama or travel writings, and restrict this subset by date of publication or sex or country of author. The Literary Encyclopedia therefore makes it possible to view literary history in ways which were previously possible only through arduous research.

How do I search for people who do a particular kind of activity?

Please follow the instructions above.

Example: if you set the Activity of person value to Poet, it will display all the people in the database who have been indexed as poets. If you then add another search specification say, Country as England, it will show all English writers who have been indexed as poets. You can add further criteria such as gender, or further nuance existing criteria in terms of, say, country of birth and/ or country of activity, or primary activity and ‘primary and secondary activity’. You can also add date-ranges. This search can therefore produce very accurate listings of entries, of, for instance, all female poets (whether primarily poets or also poets depending on the search criteria set) active in England between 1750 and 2000. Because multiple indexing values are used by our databases, you may find that a writer you think of as primarily an English novelist (but who may also have been an occasional writer of poetry) might appear on this list if you have chosen the criterion ‘primary and secondary activity’ for calibrating your search for poets. A similar architecture is used for searching works and topics and events.

How do I search for works by a particular person?

First go to the main article for the person, then click the “X's works” link in the right panel of the entry, under ‘Context’.

This is a feature-in-progress, so there will be Encyclopedia records which do not list the works of the person, particularly if the record is a stub (does not have a completed profile yet). However, we do list over 34,000 titles of works, which is an impressive bibliographical feat, and we are adding new lists every month.

How do I look for people from a particular country?

You can use the advanced search to look for people, works and events linked to a particular country. See more instructions above.



The Bookshelf function allows users to save entries to a personal bookshelf, which can be accessed through their member homepage. (See ‘Account’ on the top right hand-corner of the page which appears after you have logged in). You can put together a collection of entries that you might want to consult for a particular essay or project, compile reading lists for a class or book group, or simply save collections of your favourite books and authors. Once you have compiled a bookshelf you can email the link to it to a friend, group or class.

Recommended critical bibliographies

Our Recommended Readings database lists books, editions or journal articles that our contributors deem to be of scholarly interest for further study of the particular person, work or topic to which they are added. This function is in constant development and tens of new titles are added to various entries each week. In the autumn of 2012 we plan to also build an advanced search system which will allow the sophisticated searching of our recommended readings database by contributor of recommendation, article to which recommendation is added, author of recommended item, or title of recommended item.

To find if an article has recommended readings attached to it, please use the quick search tool to find the article that you are interested in. If the article has recommended bibliographical titles listed, these will appear at the bottom of the article as a hyperlink and in the right panel of the article under ‘Context’.

Recommended Internet resources

Our other database comprises recommended internet resources. Online research can be a time-consuming and difficult process, and repeatedly sifting through search results that turn out to be irrelevant or unsuitable can be extremely frustrating. The Literary Enyclopedia Web Resources Database includes useful sites that have been individually selected by our contributors and editors, and then indexed according to their content to help you find the quality resources you need. To search for a website about a particular person, work or topic, you can click on the ‘Web Resources’ link (where available) under the ‘Context’ menu in the right panel of any article. This will give you a list of sites specifically about that person, work or topic.

In the autumn of 2012 we plan to build an advanced search system which will allow users to find websites by the title of the article (person biography, work profile, or topic essay) to which they are added, or according to their content - e.g. all sites which have interviews with authors, e-texts, bibliographies etc.

Please note that whilst building this database, we have checked every site as thoroughly as possible to ensure that they do not contain or link to articles of an offensive nature (e.g. pornographic, racist, homophobic or antisemitic material). However, the Literary Encyclopedia cannot be held responsible for the content of any of the sites included in the database. If you feel that any of the sites in the Database are unsuitable for inclusion, please use the Contact Us form to let us know, so that we can re-assess them. Please mark your subject message “Unsuitable Link”.

Author Chronologies

This option offers detailed individual chronologies for major writers which reveal the cultural milieu of each author and allow one writer's life to be compared with up to two others. Each chronology comprises 2-400 biographical events, day-by-day, month-by-month, and is shown in parallel with the contemporary historical events drawn from our topics& events table. The default display shows events from the same country as that of the author's country of birth and activity, but you have the option to show events from the whole world by clicking the relevant link at the top of the chronology.

To access an author's chronology, please click on the X ‘Chronology’ (if available) under the ‘Context’ menu in the right panel of all people articles. Alternatively, you can find them on the homepage, in the left panel, under ‘Content’.


This database offers a collection of out of copyright texts (poems, essays, extracts from larger pieces), pamphlets, tracts etc. which illustrate the writings of various authors and which can be used for teaching purposes. This function is still being developed and many new texts will be added in the course of 2013-2014. To access this function, please click on the ‘X Texts’ (if available) under the ‘Context’ menu in the right panel of all articles.

Reference Groups and Related Articles

This function (where available) offers thematic groups and related articles, which are built and added to by the authors of articles and are available to all users of the Encyclopedia. They provide wiki-style clusters useful for particular courses (for instance, ‘African American Drama’, ‘Children's Literature’ or ‘Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction’), or simply join together articles which are related in theme, content and subject-matter (e.g. ‘Marxist Theory and Philosophy’, ‘English Romanticism’, ‘Avantgardes’ etc.). This function is present as a menu in the right panel of any article (if this article has been included in any thematic group or linked to any other article in our database). For an instructive example, see our entry on Salman Rushdie. You can see all the groups currently available by clicking on ‘Reference Groups’ in the left panel on the homepage, under ‘Content’. This is a work-in-progress and more such groups are added every month, so come back regularly to check it out!

Contemporaries and Timelines

This tool searches for all People, Works and Events in the same time period and location as the subject of the entry you are reading, thus providing an instant contextual overview. Find out who else was writing, what else was being published, and what events were taking place!

For “people” entries, the ‘Contemporaries’ option under ‘Context’ in the right panel of the article lists all writers who were active +/- 10 years before and after the activity period of the author about whom you are reading. You can choose to display only authors active in the same country, or on the same continent, or the whole world. For “works” and “topics& events” articles, the “works and events” function in the right panel under “Context” displays a customised timeline for the particular work or topic you are viewing, showing all other works and events happening in the same period in the same country.

IMPORTANT! You can create your own customised timelines by accessing this function (“Timelines”) from the homepage, under the ‘Content’ section in the left panel. This enables you to set up parallel searches for works and topics & events which are correlated by country/ region and date.

How do I make a timeline? How do I save a timeline?

The timeline function enables you to set up parallel searches for works and topics & events. These can be correlated by country/ region and date. Click the timeline option in the left panel on the homepage, under ‘Content’, set the date range, then set the general domain or the genre of works you wish to see listed, then the region or specific country.

What are the Glossary and the Stylebook and how can I use these?

The concise glossary can be opened over other articles to find short explanations of literary terms. This is a selective resource which does not replace the use of a proper dictionary of literary terms! Often, key concepts will have a short article in the topics table, so if you do not find a term in the glossary, try looking for it in the main database, whether by browsing, or by searching.

The Style Book offers comprehensive guidance to all matters of academic writing, from punctuation to vocabulary, syntax, style conventions for scholarly essays and research papers and even logic and argument-building. This guide differs from most others in that it cites many examples of current bad practice in English-speaking countries and sets out to explain why they are wrong and how they can be corrected. This should be an indispensable guide to all undergraduates!