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French Subject & Information Resources

French Subject & Information Resources

In citing electronic resources, you should in the first instance follow the same general rules as for printed sources, as the following example of a reference to an item contained on the (vast) Gallica site of the Bibliothèque nationale de France indicates:

  • the name of the author and of the text cited should be given in full, e.g. Louis de Bonald, Économie politique, p. x.
  • next, you should cite the name of the webpage or web service that provides the source, e.g. Website: BNF Gallica
  • next, you should cite the URL of the source itself
  • finally, you should give the date on which you last accessed this URL

A complete reference would thus look something like this:

Louis de Bonald, Économie politique (Paris, J.-P. Migne, 1859), p. x. Website: BNF Gallica.
URL: Last consulted: 12 December 2001.

Your bibliography should also record this information, together with the full publication details of any published work cited. Here is a further example:

Website: Calendrier des spectacles sous l'Ancien Régime (Barry Russell, Oxford Brookes University). URL: Last consulted: 12 December 2001.

For further information, consult the following sources.



This page provides guidance on how to find relevant information to support your reading, thinking and writing. Knowing how to search for useful sources is an essential skill and your work in French will benefit from learning both how to exploit the resources of the library as a whole and how to locate online sources of the appropriate quality.


Using reference resources

One of the key tasks you will undertake in your work in French is that of finding sources and using them to develop arguments or to locate information. This work will typically involve using library resources. Sources of this kind will include reference works (e.g. dictionaries, encyclopaedias, dictionaries of specialized terms, bibliographies).

Reference works may point you in the direction of further sources, either primary works with which you are directly concerned in a given project or secondary works. Primary works are the materials which you take as your focus in your work: literary texts in the case of a literary essay, works in the history of ideas if you are work on French thought, original documents (e.g. speechs, tracts, statistics or other data sets) if you are working on a historical topic. Secondary sources are typically books or articles containing further information on or critical discussion of the topics on which you are working.

In dealing with information, you will need to acquire a number of different skills:

  • a capacity to identify relevant sources of information and to find relevant information within the sources which you use
  • a capacity to discover sources of new information
  • an ability to search effectively through the very wide range of sources that are available to you
  • a capacity to evaluate the quality and precision of the sources which you may use
  • an ability to keep accurate records of the sources which you use (author, title, publication details, page references --- see the advice on sources and references in the Department of French stylesheet)

Some useful guidelines for evaluating information are provided by the Bobst Library in New York University.

Increasingly, information is available online, either by means of electronic access to specialized sources and reference data or through materials assembled for the web. Here again, you will need to evaluate the information which you use. Links to websites on France and French are also available via the Department of French website.


Resources in the Boole Library

Printed works are likely to be your main sources --- books, articles, or reference works. Reference works can be used to locate information on primary texts, or on literary movements, or on the political and cultural history of France and French-speaking countries, or on linguistics, or the history of ideas, or on contemporary French culture. Use library catalogues to locate relevant works from amongst holdings in books and journals (journals are also increasingly available online, together with databases which help you to search for articles which may be of use to you --- more on this below).

The Library now subscribes online to Oxford Reference, through which you will have access to a wide range of reference resources, including some of those cited below.

The following items are among the reference works to be found in the Boole Library which you are likely to find useful.

French and francophone literary history


Literary terms




French thought


Cultural studies


French society and institutions


Online resources

More and more information today is provided online, either directly in web-based text databases and reference works, or indirectly through library catalogues and other searching devices. Some useful guidance on internet sources for linguists is available from the Virtual Training Suite.

Library catalogues

The Boole Library catalogue is your primary point of reference for primary and secondary works alike. The second link below is to an online catalogue of all research libraries in Ireland, through which you can check different libraries' holdings and identify books which can be obtained through inter-library loan.

A wide range of catalogues in international national and research libraries can also be consulted online. These catalogues can be useful sources of bibliographical and other information:



Journals are important sources usually of secondary works in article form. The Boole Library subscribes to many journals, either in print or online --- see the catalogue for details. Some of the relevant journals which you may use include Forum for Modern Language Studies, French Cultural Studies, French Forum, French Studies, Journal of French Language Studies, Journal of the History of Ideas, MLN, Modern Language Review, PMLA, Revue d'histoire littéraire de la France, Romantisme, Theatre Research International. Current issues of these journals may be consulted on Q+1 and on Q+3.

Journals are now increasingly published or archived online. One of the main means of obtaining access to research materials is via electronic databases incorporating contents of journals and reviews. Consult the Boole Library guide to these sources, which provides direct links to the databases in question

Many very useful sources both of information and of critical discussion are now available online via the website of the Boole Library. You may find some of these tools useful.

You must bear in mind that you will always be expected to refer explicitly and in detail to your sources, bearing in mind the relevant conventions for presenting references, including those that apply to online sources.


Online texts and editions

Today, the digital library co-exists alongside the physical library as archives of the printed word. Of the sources listed below, Gallica is a major collection of a very wide range of French literary and other works in original editions no longer subject to copyright. Online texts may be provided in HTML or in PDF format (guidance on accessing files in each of these formats is available online). In some cases, online texts are based on more or less recent scholarly editions. Documents of Ireland contains texts in Hiberno-Norman French. The last two links below are to mainly English-language databases.


Subject gateways

The web contains a very wide range of online information and resources --- some of it useful and original, some of it less dependable. A useful way of initiating your research on online sources is to use gateways which seek to evaluate websites according to the range and usefulness of the information which they contain.


Reference works online

Online search engines now provide access to collections of dictionaries and encyclopaedias. At present, the Boole Library subscribes to Oxford Reference, among a wide range of other resources and databases.


Literary and rhetorical terms

Here are some useful original online resources:


Useful websites

A separate page is maintained giving details of useful websites in the range of areas of French and francophone language, culture and society of interest to staff and students in the Department. You should feel free to suggest other sites that could be added to this list: send your suggestion to

Citing electronic sources

The citation of materials maintained online presents certain problems, in part because Uniform Resource Locators (or URLs, or typical web 'addresses' in the form give information precisely on locations, and not as a rule on what a file may contain, or its title. In general, therefore, you should give the title of the website (as indicated on its home or main page) as well as the name of the page which you are citing, together with the URL. Because URLs are not absolutely persistent (a file may disappear, or the page cited may move to a different location, even without changing its content), you should also give the date on which you last referred to the file or page. In general, the title of a page is what appears in the title bar of your browser:

Department of French

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