Researching Mythology



Your essay should not be a “report” of what the supposed experts have to say: that’s why they¹re called secondary sources. Yours is the new voice here and the one we want to listen to. The purpose of secondary sources in your writing is to authenticate your interpretation of the literary piece within the context of a sort of ongoing discussion about the work by other (consider them lesser) interpreters.

To track down scholarly publications related to your humanities topic or literary work, you need a valuable search tool. At Washington State University’s library, the Griffin system will get you to books about the work or author, but in many cases, these sources may be too sprawling to help with your focused topic. Finding articles published in scholarly journals should also be your goal. Therefore you want to enter Article Indexes.

Next you need an appropriate index for humanities or literary studies. The overused ProQuest works better for social “issues,” not literature. A general index, such as Arts and Humanities Index, may help, but covers so much in breadth that one wonders what is being left out in depth. (You should, by the way, be acquainted with the general and specialized indexes for your major fields of study — which, I daresay, probably do not include English.)

Best for literary research is the MLA International Bibliography which is available online and, reliably and I sometimes think more logically, in print form in the Reference Room with call number Z 7006 M64. (For the latter, with the Author Index volume of each year, you can find what has been published regarding your own selected author by turning to the proper nationality first, then time period, and then scanning alphabetically by last name.)

If using the online version, realize that your author or work should be treated as the “keyword.” (I could not understand why nothing on the playwright Euripides was showing up until I realized that the index considers “author” to mean the person writing the article on Euripides, who, being dead and all, hasn¹t been publishing much of a scholarly nature lately.)

You may be able to print or e-mail yourself the relevant sources that show up. In any case, you desperately need the bibliographical information to find the articles and document them later: journal name, volume and issue, pages. If using the hardcopy bibliography, you may need to check journal abbreviations at the beginning of the MLA volume.

Then treat the journal title like you would a book title to see if our library carries the subscription: that is, go back to Griffin for call numbers. Head off to microfilm or the stacks and test your map skills. Don’t you impress yourself with your own scholarliness?

BL 300sGeneral Mythology
BL ~325Creation Myths
BL 311 D513 1991 Part 4: Greece
BL 700sClassical Mythology
BL 800sScandinavian, Irish, Hindu, etc.
The journal for mythology: Parabola