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MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB): Searchable Fields

A guide to all aspects of MLA International Bibliography including content, searching, and viewing results on the ProQuest platform. (MLAIB)


MLA citations feature subject terms taken from the MLA Thesaurus, a controlled vocabulary of over 49,000 topical terms and 327,000 names. New subjects and names (descriptors) are regularly added to reflect the state of current scholarship in literature, language, folklore, and linguistics.

Users should note that subject indexing in the bibliography is considerably richer for records from 1981 onwards. Before 1981, MLA bibliographers used a more simplified approach to classification, generally only noting the main concept of each article; for example, 'American Literature -- 1800–1899 -- Hawthorne, Nathaniel', or 'language -- bilingualism' or 'ethnomusicology -- musical instruments'. In 1981, a contextual indexing and faceted taxonomic access system (CIFT) was adopted, whereby which each item is assigned an order sequence of subject descriptors.

Subject descriptors are usually specific terms; appropriate cross-references are provided to similar or related terms in the index. Descriptors define the explicit content: for example, authors are not identified as belonging to groups unless their group identification is treated within the indexed document, and methodological approaches are specified only when they are discussed or clearly applied. Finally, descriptors are assigned for an item if, and only if, users seeking information on the topic indicated by a descriptor would be likely to want to retrieve the item.

Read more about descriptors and indexing on the MLA website.

Role Indicators

The role indicators display in the Subject Heading field and describe relationships between descriptors. The role indicators does not appear in the browsable indexes (Look Ups).

influence on
theories of
relationship to
role in/of
treatment of
compared to
application in/of
applied to
compared to
use of
theories of
sources in/for
for audience
treatment in/of etc

Look Ups or Browsable Indexes

MLA offers several Look ups or browsable indexes, so you can easily find spelling or format variations of, for example, an author's name or a journal title. You can find 13 Look up links on the advanced search page and they are available for the following searchable fields: authors as subject, author's works,  languages of publication, subject headings (all), publication titles, folklore topic, genre, linguistics topic, literary influence, literary source, literary theme, literature topic and national literature.There are also 7 Look up links on the Directory of periodicals page: Publication titles, subject headings (all), languages, sposoring organization, publisher, country and editor.

For a description of these fields, please see the searchable fields table to the right. 

Note: Look ups are also available from the Command Line search (through the Look up terms link).

To use and locate a Look up or browsable index, select the field from the advanced search pull-down menu. If a Look up is available, under the search row you will see a link to the Look up. Other Look ups and browsable indexes will be listed in the Limit To section of the advanced search page.

Select the Look up link and then you will see a browsable and alphabetical index for that field. There are some indexes that will not display an alphabetical list before searching for the term, rather you will have to enter a term first, and then the alphabetical list of matches will display.

Once you locate the index term that you would like to add to your search, mark the item, and then click the Add to search button. The index term will now appear in the advanced search form along with the appropriate pull-down menu selection.

Searchable Fields

 Field Name


Search Examples & Explanation

Accession Number



A unique number that identifies a specific document.



ALL(teaching Dante)

ALL searches for keywords in the citation and abstract.  As MLA is an abstracting and Indexing database, there is no full text to be searched.



AU=(Almond, Ian)

Use to find documents written by a particular author. Try searching on both the full first name and initials in order to retrieve all publications by a specific author.

Author as subject


SAU=(Beckett, Samuel)

Person who is the subject of the document. Note that this field also contains the titles of anonymous works, folk works and other works that lack an identified author, e.g. 'Beowulf', 'The Sopranos'.

Author's work



SWK=(Waiting for Godot)

Work of literature discussed in the document.

Document Title



TI(Determiner Phrase and Definiteness in Old High German)

Locates the occurrence of search words in the title of the article.

Folklore Topic



Subject in folklore studies addressed in the document.



GEN(science fiction)

Literary genre addressed in the document.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)



This search field looks for the 12 and 13 digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN), where available. Hyphens are optional.

International Standard Serials Number (ISSN)



This search field looks for the eight digit International Standard Serials Number (ISSN), where available. Hyphens are optional.

Language of publication



Use to locate the original language of the document.

Linguistics Topic



Subject in linguistics addressed in the document.

Literary Influence


LIF(feminist writers)

Person or thing that has been influenced by the subject defined in the classification.

Literary Source



Person or thing that has influenced the subject defined in the classification.

Literary Theme



Theme addressed in the document.

Literature Topic

GLT(Arthurian legend)

Subject in literary studies addressed in the document.




This field can only be searched if the database has a thesaurus. The prefix MAINSUBJECT will be added to your search when you select the term from the Thesaurus or if you type the mnemonic. MAINSUBJECT is a way to limit to the subject heading originating from the thesaurus and does not include the use of terms coming from the location index, person index, company index or other classification terms. To search on terms that incorporate all of these subject and index terms, please use the Subject Heading field (SU).

National Literature


NT(Turkish literature)

Nationality of the person or works adressed in the document.

Performance Medium



Film, theater, opera, television, or radio as subject of the document.




Span of one or several hundred years as appropriate to the subject.




Geographic subject of the document.

Publication Title


PUB(Acta Linguistica Asiatica)

Use to search by a specific publication or publications. Alternatively use the look up facility to select specific titles.

Publication Year



Use to search documents from a specific year or years. Remember to use an OR operator when searching for more than one year. Alternatively use the Date range under the Search options.

Publisher Abstract


ABS(courtroom drama)

Publisher Abstracts were made available to users with the April 2008 upload.

Serials Title


SR(Contemporary North American Poetry Series)

Use to retrieve books from a series.

Source Type



The document's type - book (monograph, collection of essays, or article within), dissertation abstract, edition, journal article, translation or website.

Subject Heading (all)


MLASU(ethnic stereotypes)

Controlled vocabulary words, names, or phrases from the MLA thesaurus that describes what the document is about. For more targeted subject searching, use subject sub-fields such as Author as Subject or Literary Theme.

Subject Language


SLN(French language)

Language the document is about.



TAG(comparative study)

Use to search for Tags attached to articles. This field is user generated and only searches Tags that were made public by ProQuest users.




When the document was added to the database.