VCE English and EAL, English Language, and Literature guide - units 3 & 4

Guide to research and literary criticism of current texts used in VCE English and English as an Additional Language (EAL), English Language, and Literature

VCE Literature - Researching literature online

Literature databases, guides & books

Gale Literature database

Here is an example of searching Gale Literature for criticism and overviews of William Wordsworth's poetry.

The first step is to type in your search. You can further narrow your search to types of information such as Literature Criticism, Biographies etc.

Gale Literature search

Gale Literature search

Use the Filter Your Results option to further narrow this search. In this example the search has been narrowed to a specific poem

Gale Literature search

Gale Literature search


Sometimes articles will be individual plain text documents and pdfs, while some items are scans of the original print volumes. The latter are not as user friendly but contain excellent content. 


AustLit includes some full text, but for most entries,  contains citations only. The citation includes details of where an article was published but does not include the full text of the article. See the example below:

citations Austlit

From the citation you can then search our Library catalogue to see if we hold the article in print or online. See the Citations tab for further information.

If an item is freely available in full text through the AustLit database there will be a  F symbol or Full text  icon.

See this illustrated example of an AustLit search for reviews of Cate Kennedy's Like a House on Fire.

Search AusLit database


Search on AustLit

For more details on searching our catalogue for fulltext articles see the Citations tab above.

Article search

Through our Library catalogue  search across a number of databases for articles on literature. 

Type in a title or an author and then choose Articles from the drop down list next to the search box.

Use the options at left of screen to narrow your search and click View online to access full text articles. Click on the image below to activate this search for The sound of things falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez 

Article search

Here is an example of a search for articles on Robyn Cadwallader The anchoress. Contrast this search with a similar search for reviews on Austlit.

Click on the image below to activate this search.

Review search for Robyn Cadwallader 'The anchoress'


Sometimes broader databases may deliver better results than literary databases, especially for recent fiction and for non-fiction

For example do a search for articles on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

These articles may complement items found on specialist databases such as Gale Literary Sources. 

Use Refine results options to narrow to type of publication - for example just items published in scholarly journals or peer reviewed articles.

The Library holds a large range of books of literary criticism which analyse specific authors and their works. These are usually printed books that are not online and can only be accessed within the Library. If they are held in storage you can use your Library membership number to order the books to be retrieved.

We are not a lending Library but the books can be used any time at the Library.

VCE guides

The  Insight text and comparison guide series analyse specific texts for VCE students.  Check whether we hold a guide to a specific text by searching using the title of the text with the phrase Insight text guide. For example Insight guide Malala

There are other guides to VCE English and VCE Literature. To find these do a catalogue search using terms such as Literature VCE or English VCE, add additional terms to narrow your search.

Note though that we don't hold all the Insight guides or VCE guides, so we may not hold the specific one you are seeking.

If we don't hold the guide you are looking for, or if you want to see what guides are held at other libraries, do a search on Trove. From the record on Trove click the Borrow tab at top right to see what other libraries have copies of the item.

Literary criticism and analysis

To find books of literary criticism and analysis go to our catalogue and do a keyword search with the name of an author and the term 'criticism'. For more specific results include the title of a work.

For example  "Henry James" criticism or for a specific work "Northanger Abbey" "Jane Austen" criticism.

Check the Available note on the record to find whether the book is on the open shelves or whether you need to order it from storage using your Library membership number.

Children's literature

See our separate guide on Children's literature.

Citations give details of where an article or a piece of information was published.  Many online databases contain the full text of articles that are cited, but sometimes only the citation, and not the full text, is available.

If there is only a citation available through our databases, you can search our Library catalogue to see if we hold the item. You can also search the Trove database which covers holdings at libraries around Australia.

See the following citation from the AustLit database.




To locate this article through the Library catalogue, first try a search just for the article - The Distance between Desire and Need by Paul Plisiewicz  - using the Articles option.

Article search on the Library catalogue


An alternative is to search for the journal title Antipodes under Everything except articles. If it is available online there will be a View online tab.


Title search

Catalogue search for Antipodes

If we hold the issue you want, navigate to the relevant issue - December, 2009,  Vol 23 #2 p215 - and then to the article.


JSTOR search

Review record


Citation management

See our Research Guide on Citation management.

Other libraries

The Trove database contains records from libraries across Australia. If you cannot find a journal or book on our catalogue search Trove to see if another Library holds the item.

Quick catalogue tips

  • start with a broad keyword search using 2 or 3 words
  • if you get too many irrelevant hits add more terms or alter your terms
  • use the Advanced search option for more specific searches
  • use the dropdown box to restrict to types of material, for example eBooks; articles; etc.
  • use "quotation marks" or, in Advanced search the exact phrase option
    • this option searches consecutive words so only use if you are sure of a name, title, or phrase
  • use the Refine results by options to create a more specific search.
  • use our Help pages

Literature databases

Use the topic tabs at the top of this guide for instruction on using the most appropriate database.

If you live in Victoria register to access these databases from home.

Learn skills


Check our ergo site for practical guides to researching assignments, writing essays and studying for exams.

There's also plenty of examples that clearly show you how to apply your new skills.

There are videos of authors and academics who share their research, writing and study tips.

Online learning

For more on locating and using information and developing research skills, see these online courses. You can work through each module or dip in and out for the information you need.

VCE guides

See also our Introduction to the Library guide.

Past VCE Study Design documents from the VCAA have been archived on Trove.