Western Libraries

ENGL 2071F/2072F Speculative Fiction: Science Fiction/ Speculative Fiction: Fantasy

Welcome and Introduction

This guide outlines basic research strategies for English 2071F and 2072F:  Speculative Fiction:  Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction:  Fantasy.  Use this guide in order to learn how to find reference sources, books and articles using the library website.

Research Process

1.)  Develop a research question.  The research question serves as a focal point for your research.  Your instructor may provide you with a research question; however, if you are constructing your own question, you might want to begin by brainstorming a series of questions that you may want to answer in your essay.  Using your set of questions as a guide, develop a single question in order to help focus the research process.  Ensure that your research question addresses appropriate topics or issues that you can actually research.

Sample Question:  Does Frankenstein's monster embody gender transgression?

2.)  Re-read the novel (or novels), paying particular attention to key passages relating to your research question.

3.)  Consult secondary sources, such as reference sources, books and articles.  Secondary sources will further your understanding of the text.

To find secondary sources, go to the Western Libraries website:  www.lib.uwo.ca 

To access electronic sources while off-campus, you may log-in from Western Libraries OMNI search page, or log-in when requested to do so.

Consulting Reference Sources

Reference sources (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) provide researchers with integral background information about a text or author.  Find reference sources via the library website.  Go to the library website (www.lib.uwo.ca) and click on the reference tab in order to find online or print reference sources(Weldon's print reference section is on the first floor).

Here is a list of helpful reference sources:

Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy by Gary K. Wolfe

Dictionary of Literary Biography Online

Encyclopedia of Fantasy Eds. John Clute and John Grant

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Eds. John Clute and Peter Nicholls

Literature Criticism Online

Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction

Finding Books

Books are often a good starting point because they offer a general examination of a given topic or issue.  To find electronic and print books at Western Libraries, use our OMNI catalogue:

Search for books about a topic using the OMNI ADVANCED SEARCH.  Because OMNI is such a powerful search engine, the number of retrieved results can be overwhelming. In order to retrieve pertinent results, one can choose to search selectively:

To find books ABOUT Frankenstein:

  • CHANGE your search from "Any Field"  to Subject, using the drop-down menu
  • LEAVE the 2nd option as-is: contains
  • INPUT your title (in the space after "contains:): Frankenstein

To find copies of Frankenstein, enter the book title as a "title."

  • CHANGE the search from "Any Field" to Title, using the drop-down menu
  • CHANGE the 2nd option (from "contains"), to: is (exact)
  • INPUT your title (in the space after "contains:): Frankenstein

Scan the retrieved results, and select a title in order to find its location and availability:

For retrieved items, OMNI numbers the items, and, at the bottom of each box gives location information: "Available at"  NAME OF LIBRARY; LIBRARY LOCATION. "DBW stack" means that this title is at Weldon library.  According to the status (under "Currently") the book is not checked out.  The "Call Number" (PR 5397.F73V44 1986) helps you locate the book on the shelf.



When you select a title, you might also notice Subject Headings (see image below). 

Subject headings indicate the topics covered by a particular text. For instance, topics discussed in the book Mary Shelley & Frankenstein:  The Fate of Androgyny include Androgyny in literature, Sex differences in literature and Split self in literature.  If you click on a subject heading, you will find other sources associated with the same topic.  So if you click "Androgyny (Psychology) in literature, you will find other critical texts related to androgyny in literature.   


Sample Subject Headings for Science Fiction

Science Fiction

Science Fiction-- History and Criticism

Future in Literature


Sample Subject Headings for Fantasy

Fantasy Fiction

Fantasy Fiction-- History and Criticism

Finding Articles

You can find academic journal articles using specialized databases.  Like a general search engine (think Google) databases help you locate information.  However, library databases are intended to help you find scholarly articles written by academics.  (Uncertain about scholarly sources?  Watch this video - How to Read a Scholarly Article or this Grey Literature Tutorial. You may also find it useful to learn about The Peer Review Process.

To find articles, consult one of the following databases:

MLA International Bibliography


Literature Online

Find more databases in the Research Guides - English.

When you use databases to find articles, think carefully about your 

1.) key concepts 
2.) search terms

For instance, in the sample question provided, the key concept is gender.  Brainstorm various components of the idea of gender and think of words or phrases that may be useful when you are searching the library catalogue or databases.

When searching a database, select the "Advanced Search" function for more concise results.  You may find that your search terms will change as your research progresses.

If you place an asterisk next to "gender" (gender*), the database will search for the following words that begin with "gender":  genders, gendered.  You can try this with other words like author* (authors, authorial, authority) or poet* (poets, poetic, poetry), etc.

Style Guides and Citing

Avoid plagarism!   Citation and style guides help you properly credit secondary sources. 

Visit the Western Libraries Style Guides page for more information about specific citation styles (eg. MLA).

Interlibrary Loans (RACER)

RACER is an online Interlibrary Loan system used to search for material and place requests. To access RACER you must have an account. To create your account, you need to register. If you have already registered, simply login. Please keep in mind that your University ID number is used as your login and your password is created by you.