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Understanding Database Structure: Database- Record-Field

Service Highlights: Library Guides

Library Guide 13: MLA International Bilbliography on CD- ROM

What is the MLA International Bibliography on CD-ROM ?
The MLA(Modern Language Association) International Bibliography on CD-ROM is an electronic database which consist of bibliographic citations pertaining to language and literature.From the database one can retrieve bibliographic citations to book and journal articles on a particular topic.The Modern Language Association also produces a print version of the index, also tilted MLA International Bibliography. The print version is shelved in the reference Library (Ref Z7006.M64 1921-Present)

Obtaining the Book or Article
The MLA Database is only a tool that tells one what books and journals contain articles on one's subject of interest.Once relevant citations are retrieved, check to see if the library subscribes to the journal or owns the book .The card catalogs(up to 1997) and LIUCAT(1980-present) lists the books the library owns. The book, LIU Library Periodicals(located near the CD-ROM terminals ,the card catalogs, and on the 4th floor), is an alphabetical listing of the library 's journal holdings.

If the library does not own the book or journal fill out an interlibrary loan(ILL) form at the desk in the Reference Library.The library will obtain the book or article from another Library and notify you when it arrives(1-2 weeks).


  • 1963-Present
  • Over 3000 Journals indexed
  • Books, working papers, proceedings, bibliographies
Understanding Database Structure: Database- Record-Field

The Database
The database is where the records are contained.The modern Language Association Bibliography is one of eleven database available to library users.To start the MLA database choose "F)MLA International Bibliography (Literature and Languages)" from the "CD-ROM Network Application" menu.If the CD-ROM Network Applications menu is not on the screen Select Quit from the commands menu or press Ctrl, Alt,and Delete simultaneously.This will restart the computer from the main menu.

The Record
The record is primarily a bibliographic citation for a particular article or book.The record is broken down into specific fields.

The Fields
The fields which make up the records are the basic components of a bibliographic citation and other descriptive information about the article or book.The most critical fields in detteremining the usefulness of a record are:

  • TI : (title)
  • AU: (author)
  • SO:(source,bibliographic citation)
  • DE:(descriptors)
  • LA:(languages)
  • PY:(publication year)
  • PT:(publication type)

Other fields include:

  • SE:(Series)
  • IS:(International standard numbers)
  • NT:(notes)
  • SN:(sequence number)
  • UD:(update code)
  • AN:(accession number)


Searching Techniques

When conducting a database search the objective is to retrieve a mininmum number of records which contain the desired information in the appropiate context.Below are searching techniques which allow one to construct and narrow a search to avoid scrolling through hundreds of irrelevant records.

Only basic searching techniques are covered here.If hundreds of records are retrieved and one cannot think of a way to narrow the search consult a Reference Librarian..Reference Librarians are available to teach students, faculty and staff how to retrieve information using all of the library's resources.

Free Text Searching
When terms are entered into the computer, the computer will search for the term in the AU, TI, SO, and DE fields of the records, and retrieve all of the records, and retrieve all of the recoprds in which the terms appear, no matter what the context.

To Retrieve records from the database , at the Find: line, type in a search term and press Enter.A search term can be a single or several word term which describes the subject .
For Example:

      Find: merchant of venice
      Find: marxist criticism
      Find: caribbean women

Boolean searching
Boolean searching allows one to combine search terms using the boolean operator "and","or",and "not". This way one can be as specific as possible and eliminate inappropiate records.The computer will retrieve records in which all of the search terms appear. For example :

      Find: hemingway and short story and men
      Find: merchant of venice and shylock not theatrical production
      Find: caribbean women and (femini* or sexis* or patriarch*)

By putting an asterick(*) on the trunk of a partial spelling the computer will search for the root of the word with its various endings. An example of the various endings to the following term may include character, characters, chracterization, feminist, feminism, feminity.

    Find: femini* and character* and english literature

Field Specific searching
Field specific searching allows one to search by a specific field in the record. The computer will only retrieve records in which the term appears in the fields indicated. This is a way in which one can control the context in which the terms(s) appears, and eliminate irrelevant records.

Construct a field specific search by typing the command "in" following the term and indicating what field (i.e AU, TI, DE, SO ) the computer should look for the term in.For example:

      Find: deconstruction* in de and derrida in de
      Find: carb-h* in au and african american women in de
      Find: Signifying monkey in ti

One can also search by publication year. This is useful if one is looking for an article published in a certain year, by a particular author. One can also search a range of years.
For example:

      Find:gates-h* in au and py = 1990
      Find:culler in au and literary theory in de and py=1990-1996

Menu Commands and On-screen Instructions

The menu commands are located at the bottom of the screen. These commands allow one to change screens and excute particular functions(i.e.,print). READ THE SCREEN
Most databases use the natural language commands , meaning the commands should be self explanatory and do what they say.The most common sets of menu commands are:


Below the row(s) of menu commands there are additional instructions related to the command that is highlighted in gray, or what is currently on the screen.

To select a menu command:
1)press the yellow letter that the command begins with


2)press the space bar to move the gray bar to the desired command and press enter.

For an explanation of a menu command:
1)press the space bar to move the gray bar to the desired command and press F1(help).


2) just try it, be creative, and experiment.

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