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Starting French

Starting French Tutorial 1

Finding books and articles from reading lists

First we need to identify what is a book, what is an essay (with a separate author) in a book of edited essays, and what is a periodical article, so we can know how to find them in the Library’s Web Catalogue. These days you are often given an electronic link on the reading list, but understanding how a reading list works is essential to your being able to find and understand your own references later on.

Each type of item implies a different type of search. We can only distinguish the type by looking for clues, ie by taking note of how the item is cited on the reading list. List entries are written in a kind of code, which uses standard patterns to describe printed items. These patterns are different for books, for book essays, or for periodical articles.


The details will normally consist of:

  • author(s) family name with forename or initial(s) * (sometimes first name/surname order will be used)
  • title and subtitle of book
  • edition (when relevant)
  • place of publication and/or publisher
  • date.

Many reading lists won’t give all this amount of detail, but you need to learn to pick out and recognise the essential elements which indicate that the item referred to is a book. Sometimes the author's name will be given in natureal order (citation style), sometimes surname first (bibliography style).

Some examples:

Gildea, R, France since 1945, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Maurice Larkin, France since the Popular Front: Government and People 1936-1966, Oxford University Press, 1997

Edited books

The details to look for will be almost exactly the same as for a standard book, except that the author(s) will be identified as ‘ed(s)’. Usually, though not exclusively, the contents will consist of essays written by other people.

Some examples:

R Kedward and R Austin (eds), Vichy France and the Resistance: Culture and Ideology (1985)

Lucy Mazdon (ed.), France on film: reflections on popular French Cinema (London: Wallflower Press, 2001)

Book chapters

A book chapter is considered to be one section of a book, often with its own title. Sometimes you will be given the pagination for the chapter but often not. The important thing is that it has to be by the same author as the book as a whole, otherwise it is considered to be a book essay. There will often be a helpful phrase like ‘in his/her’ but don’t depend on it!

An example:

Mills, Sara, 'Power and Institutions', ch. 2 in Michel Foucault (London: Routledge, 2003), 33-52

Maurice Blanchot, 'Le Langage de la Fiction' in his La Part du Feu (Paris: Gallimard, 1949)

Book essays

This is where you need to be careful! The author will usually be a different person from the editor(s) of the book in which the essay appears. So you won’t want to look for the item in the catalogue under the author’s name, but under the editor and title of the collection of essays. Look out for that tell-tale ‘in’.

An example:

Edelgard Dubruck, 'La Rhetorique du desespoir: Didon et La Chatelaine de vergy, in Jean Dufornet (ed.) Relire le 'Roman d'Eneas' (Geneva: Slatkine, 1985)

Christopher Shortly, 'Simenon and Crime Fiction Between the Wars', in Claire Gorrara (ed.), French Crime Fiction (2009).

Periodical articles

These don't look so different from a book essay, except that you will find the article not in an edited book but in a particular volume and issue of a named periodical. To find the periodical article you will need to look for:

  • the name of the periodical
  • the date and number of the particular volume
  • the issue number and the page numbers of the article

Complete details are not always supplied on reading lists, but periodical name, volume number (or date) and page numbers are essential. Ask your lecturer for more information if these details are not provided.

  • Remember to search in the Library Catalogue under the title of the periodical, not under the author of the article.
  • Page references to periodicals often don’t include the code ‘pp’ while references to book essays usually do
  • Details of the publisher of a periodical are not relevant and so are not provided (but that's another clue!)

Some examples:

Edwin Duval, 'Lessons of the New World: Design and Meaning in Montaigne's Des Cannibales and Des Coches', in Yale French Studies, vol. 64 (1983), 95-112.

Michele Bacholle-Baskovic, 'La Guerre d'Algerie expliquee a nos enfants', The French Review 76. 5 (April 2003), 968-982.

* sometimes you will find Journal titles are given as initials [in some cases this form has become the official title, e.g. PMLA for Publications of the Modern Languages Association] ; if you need to know what the initials stand for, use Alkire, Leland G. (ed.), Periodical Abbreviations (Detroit: Gale, 2000) shelved at [ref] Z 6941 A5


References have shape The titles in italics or underlined are book or periodical titles – these are what you need to look up in the Catalogue. The titles in ‘....’ quotes (may be single or double depending on the style used) are chapter or article titles - ie parts of a published item. You can't use these titles to find the item: you need the book author and title, or the periodical title. The abbreviation ed. indicates the editor of the book - ie s/he didn't write all the chapters in it, but put it together for publication.

For references to periodical articles: the periodical title is followed by the volume number and the date

References have style The style will vary from reading list to reading list but, in general, the author name can be in direct or inverted order (ie surname first or second).

For references to books: the title is often followed by the place of publication or the publisher's name (or both), and the date often goes in brackets.

Finding books

If you have an author name, use this as well as the book title - this will make your search quicker and more accurate.

Book essays: you use the name of the editor of the book to find it in Library Search. This might be the same person as the author of the chapter - but it might not!

Periodical articles: you use the name of the periodical in a Title search in Library Search and check that the Library has a set of print volumes which include the year or volume number in your citation, or you link to the e-journal version. Sometimes there is more than one e-journal link so check the year and volume in your citation.