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Prelims Paper 1 - Introduction to English Language and Literature: Training - Part 1: Finding Texts Online

Subjects: English


Welcome to the training page for Prelims Paper 1. This is Part 1: Finding Texts.

On the left column you'll find links to all the key resourcesAt the bottom of the page you'll see exercises to work on to try the resources out for yourself, and the link for Part 2: Text Analysis.

Where to start

If you know the name of the resource you're looking for,the first place you should go is SOLO. As with any online resource, we recommend you always use the advanced search option, as this will give you more flexibility.

Follow these steps:

  • Click on Advanced Search.
  • Use the drop-down box at the top to change from Search Everything to just Online Resources.
  • You can change the option to search in Any Field to search for Title or Author to narrow your results down.
  • In the Resource Type field you can change this to search for just books or to whatever file type you're looking for.
  • Press the Search button.
  • You should always Sign-In to SOLO - it will give you more search results and make it easier to access online resources. If you havne't yet done it click Sign-In in the yellow bar at the top of the search results.
  • You can then click on the green Online Access text to access the online resource.


Databases A-Z
If you aren't looking for a specific item, but instead want to browse all the online databases that we have access to, you should go to Databases A-Z.

You can browse by subject specific resources, but don't forget to also look at other subjects that may cross over, such as History or Women's Studies. On Databases A-Z you will find some Author Specific Resources.


OED Sources

If you’re interested in looking at the works of a particular author, go to the main page of the OED and you’ll see the sources area. If an author has been particularly innovative with language they will be listed here, for example, it may show evidence of an author providing the first evidence of a particular word. For example, Virginia Woolf has 8 instances of the first use of a word, 42 of the first use of a particular meaning.

Texts of a Particular Period

Some databases collect together primary works by period, such as Early English Books Online (EEBO) or Eighteenth Century Collection Online (ECCO) – they have scanned page images of virtually everything published in that time period. 


  • has over 132k works and just under half of them have been typed up so that they are searchable.
  • will allow you to search for variant spellings, which is incredibly useful for this time period.




  • all titles are fully searchable.
  • it’s been made searchable by a computer, not by hand like EEBO, so there are mistakes
  • it doesn’t accept alternative spellings


Language of Gender

If you’re interested in the language of gender we would recommend the following resources:

Also, remember that some resources allow you to search for texts by a specific gender of the author – like Literature Online, which you'll find more details on below.

Language of the Media

If you're interested in language of the media there are over 70 different newspaper subscriptions on SOLO. These include historical collections as well as current content. Databases include:

17th - 18th Century Burney Newspaper Collection

British Library Newspaper Collections

Welsh Newspapers Online (1804-1919)

American Periodicals (1740-1940)

For the most up-to date current newspapers look at Nexis UK, which is updated daily.


You can links to more Newspaper resources on the Prelims Paper 1 Newspapers & Ephemera Tab.

Language of Advertising

If you’re interested in the language of advertising then we'd recommend two resources to start with, the John Johnson Collection of printed ephemera and the The Advertising Archives.

The Advertising Archives

This is freely available online and spans the period from the mid-1800s to the present day. You will need to register to view larger images and save picture searches. The archive covers:



  • British & American press adverts
  • British & American magazine covers and artwork (including story illustrations)
  • French & Spanish magazine art
  • British TV advertising stills
  • Mail order catalogues
  • Posters, postcards, menus, theatre programmes & other ephemera
  • a wide selection of vintage magazines

A Quick Start guide is available at:


John Johnson Collection

This collection provides access to thousands of items selected from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, offering unique insights into the changing nature of everyday life in Britain in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Categories include Nineteenth-Century Entertainment; the Booktrade; Popular Prints; Crimes, Murders and Executions; and Advertising. 

There are many avenues you can explore in the collection, but as an example, you could look at representations of female murderers in the press. Using a database like Nexis UK you could find a modern report, and compare it to a 19th Century report. 


Literature Online

Literature Online is a key resource for finding primary resources and criticism. It offers the full text of more than 350,000 works of poetry, drama and prose from the eighth century to the present day as well as articles from over 430 scholarly journals.

Here are two searches for you to try yourself. 

First, search for a specific author.

  1. Type the author's name into the search bar, it may give you options to pick from, this is helpful if there are multiple authors with the same name, or if you're note sure of the spelling.
  2. You will be given results for criticism, primary works, and other options related to that author. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the author page.
  3. On the author page you will see the top results for the different categories. Find the box for Most Viewed Primary Texts and click View All or select an item.
  4. Here you can read the full text. Click on the tab to view the bibliographic details of the text - this is what you'll need to put in your bibliography.


Second task will be looking for all instances of a word. This is something Literature Online does really well, it will allow you to search across all the texts on the site for specific instances of a word appearing.

  1. Go to the Advanced Search
  2. We're going to search for a word among poems, so select Poetry from the column on the left. This will bring up a different set of search parameters specific to poetry.
  3. Type a chosen word into the search box.
  4. After this, you can see that it has tick boxes for variant spellings, if you only want it to search for a very specific spelling then untick the variant spelling boxes.
  5. You can use the rest of the search boxes to refine your search. You may want to add a particular literary period or literary movement by using the in-built suggestions.
  6. You can select the gender of the author.
  7. You can select a date range for the original publication of the work.
  8. From the box at the bottom of the page select the specific type of poetry you want it to search through, then click the search button.
  9. If you click on one of the documents you will be taken to the full text. Look out for the second tab which shoes you the bibliographic details.


Once you've worked through the material above, don't forget to check out the exercises - they're at the bottom of the left column - they'll give you a step by step guide to some of the key resources.

Next, move on to Part 2 of this training session to find out what to to with the texts once you've found them.

Training Part 2: Text Analysis