Research is like detective work; you have to run down a few angles and question a few witnesses (or databases) before you're done.
Much of searching for sources depends on choosing the right word to search.
The first link below gives a short, fun look at how many keywords to use in a search.
The second link helps you develop a few different search strategies for your topic. Need help thinking up synonyms? The final link, Lexipedia, can help by suggesting concrete or fuzzier related words.
While there are not synonyms for a term such as "Shakespeare," there are other ways to think more broadly about his time period ("elizabethan" or "jacobean" may lead to broader results). You can also get really specific, by searching for a particular sonnet or play.
Finally, if you have a great article, look at the subjects, keywords, or descriptors (each database uses slightly different terminology, too!) for that article and try using those words.
Databases for Literary Research
Each database does not contain the same information, or cover all treatments of a topic. Consider the information about what each database covers (both in content and by date, if necessary) before jumping in to search.
Don't forget the English Literature Studies LibGuide; it recommends research materials in literature--the most common databases for literary research are assembled here.
It all comes down to your topic.
On the All Databases page, we've grouped databases by subject; the most common Lit databases are listed under Literature and Linguistics.
If you are looking at a music topic, though, try out the Music databases list. Television shows? Try databases from the Film, Television, and Media studies list.
Each database has a different focus, and not all have the full text of articles. Some have information on a wide range of topics, such as Project Muse, while others have more information on a specific topic, such as World Shakespeare Bibliography Online.
For best results, check the descriptions of the databases before connecting and select a database that covers the same subject area and timeline as your topic.