Frequently Asked Questions

What is in the MLA International Bibliography?

MLA indexers review books, journals, and Web sites for material that relates to all forms of human communication. Coverage includes literature from all over the world—Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. Folklore is represented by folk literature, music, art, rituals, and belief systems. Linguistics and language materials range from history and theory of linguistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, stylistics, and syntax to translation. Other topics include literary theory and criticism, dramatic arts (film, radio, television, theater), and the history of printing and publishing.

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Who uses the MLA Bibliography?

The bibliography is the electronic research tool for literature because it most accurately reflects the state of literary and linguistics studies in the United States and internationally. Historically it has been geared to university students and scholars, but it can also benefit younger students and general users. The database offers easy searching by keyword, author, and subject (characters, literary themes, etc.). Even people with relatively limited knowledge of literature, folklore, or linguistics can get the information they need quickly.

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How many citations are added yearly to the MLA Bibliography?

Each year since 2002, over 66,000 citations have been added to the database, which contains over 2.5 million records. The file covers indexing back to 1926. In April 2003, when citations to JSTOR’s language and literature collection were first added, the bibliography began to include material in journals dating back as far as the 1880s.

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Where do you get the terms you use in indexing?

Indexers use a thesaurus of over 68,000 topical terms and 520,000 names. Since the research covered is cutting-edge, it sometimes describes concepts not yet in the thesaurus, and so subjects, names, and cross-references are regularly added.

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How does a new term or name get added to the MLA Bibliography?

The indexers suggest new terms and names, which the thesaurus staff researches before deciding which to add to the vocabulary. The terms chosen reflect the state of current scholarship in literature, language, folklore, and linguistics.

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Who does the indexing?

The indexing and editing of the bibliography are done by multilingual specialists with advanced degrees in literature, language, folklore, and linguistics. Combined, the staff has more than two hundred years of indexing experience. A large percentage of MLA staff members have PhDs. Scholars in the field also contribute material in their areas of expertise. All work is then reviewed by in-house editors, who are responsible for the overall scope and consistency of each division within the bibliography. Find out more about becoming an MLA field bibliographer.

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Is the bibliography still available in print?

No. The last print edition of the MLA International Bibliography was published in September 2009.  

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Do you index only English-language material?

No. More than sixty other languages are represented in the index, including French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, Norwegian, and Swedish. The material indexed comes from all over the globe; coverage is truly international. 

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How many journals are covered in the bibliography?

Over 6,000 journals are regularly reviewed for articles that fall within the bibliography’s scope, and almost 13,000 journals have been indexed since 1926. Scholars can also submit articles for inclusion

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Where can I find more information on journals listed in the bibliography?

Each journal citation contains an ISSN and a place of publication. The Directory of Periodicals provides more information, like title variants, editors, e-mail and subscription addresses, URL, scope, and submission details. It is available through all electronic vendors and for free to MLA members here.

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Do you index electronic journals?

Yes. To be included, they must meet certain criteria, such as having an editor and editorial board, a stated editorial policy, an archive of past issues, and a regular publication schedule. Also indexed are online bibliographies, electronic monographs, and Web sites.

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Were any new topics added to the bibliography recently?

In addition to covering books and articles in the fields of literature, language, linguistics, folklore, and film, in 2000 indexers began coverage of the history, theory, and practice of teaching language, literature, and rhetoric and composition at the college level, including professional and administrative issues. Works may address the teaching of any modern language and any literature, discourse studies, and the teaching and learning of written communication in any language. Coverage of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian literature is being improved as well.

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What is the relation of the MLA Bibliography to JSTOR?

The MLA worked with JSTOR to develop the list of titles in JSTOR’s language and literature collection. This collection provides electronic access to fifty-eight core journals in literary criticism, beginning with volume 1, issue 1, of each. Some titles, such as PMLA, date back to the 1880s. This entire collection is indexed in the bibliography, with direct links to each article on JSTOR included in each citation. New issues in the collection are indexed as they are published.

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If I find an error in the online version of the MLA Bibliography, whom should I contact?

Although we work very hard to produce an error-free bibliography, occasionally mistakes are found. Please report them to the MLA staff at bibliography@mla.org

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How can I get online access to the bibliography?

Online access to the MLA Bibliography is not included as a part of MLA membership. Subscriptions are offered to libraries through three vendors: EBSCO, Cengage, and ProQuest. If you have questions about whether or not your institution subscribes, ask your reference librarian for assistance.

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