Abstracts collect and index summaries of published works and thus are valuable resources for identifying studies of an author or topic buried within a larger work or an obscurely titled one and for making a preliminary decision about what books, articles, and dissertations to obtain. In general, abstracts by trained abstractors are preferable to those written by authors, who sometimes do not describe what they actually wrote.

A major lacuna in reference works for literatures in English is a thorough, current, fully indexed abstract. Although MLAIB (G335) began including publisher-provided abstracts of journal articles in 2008 and has added abstracts from MLA Abstracts of Articles in Scholarly Journals (G335a), it will be many years before literature scholars enjoy a resource comparable to PsycINFO (U6530).

The following include summaries of scholarship on more than one national literature. Those limited to a single national literature or subject will be found under the heading Abstracts in appropriate sections.


Abstracts of English Studies (AES). 34 vols. Oxford: Blackwell for Dept. of English, U of Calgary, 1958–94. Quarterly. PE25.A16 820′.5.

Abstracts of articles published in a core list of about 500 journals (at its demise), all but a few publishing in English. Originally restricted to articles on English and American literature, coverage was eventually extended to world literature in English and related literatures (defined by the editors as any “literature that has had marked influence on English literature and language”). With vol. 13 (1969), the unwieldy organization of entries by journal was replaced by a classified arrangement. Users should consult the front matter of each volume for the then-current organization. The descriptive summaries tend to be brief but frequently alert researchers to discussions of authors or topics buried in vaguely titled or general studies. Two indexes (subjects; scholars) in each issue; cumulated annually in the last issue, which also prints a list of journals abstracted in the volume. Except for literary authors and titles of anonymous works, the subject indexing is inadequate. Coverage is erratic (with unfilled gaps for many major periodicals) and includes few articles in foreign languages.


English and American Studies in German: Summaries of Theses and Monographs: A Supplement to Anglia . Berlin: de Gruyter, 1969– . Annual. PE3.A6 420′.5.

Publishes English summaries of dissertations, collections of essays, and books (primarily in German) on the English language and literatures in English. Coverage begins with 1967. Currently organized in four sections: general, language, literature and culture (with subdivisions for general studies, British and Anglo-Irish literatures and cultures, North American and Canadian literatures and cultures, and postcolonial literatures and cultures), and the teaching of English. Two indexes: subjects; authors. Since English and American Studies in German relies on authors and editors for abstracts, coverage is incomplete but does include many studies overlooked in the standard bibliographies.

See also

Because of their international, interdisciplinary scope, the following works abstract a considerable number of literature- and language-related studies not included or inadequately indexed in standard literature and language bibliographies: America: History and Life (Q3310), Historical Abstracts (U6500), PsycINFO (U6530), Sociological Abstracts (U6560), Women Studies Abstracts (U6610).

Children’s Literature Abstracts (U5490).