AND to look for two terms at the same time: Woolf AND criticism--will locate resources containing both terms.
OR to search for closely related terms: Gender OR Woman will look for both, but they do not have to be present in the same resource (this gives you more options)
Use * (shift 8) in or at the end of a word that may vary: Instead of woman use wom*n (this will include woman and women) or nation* (which would look up national, nationality, nationhood, and nationalism!).
Quotes when looking for a phrase: "women writers" or "national identity"
Criticism or Interpretation are great search terms for literary research
For most databases, start with a simple search, using 2 or 3 terms.
"Don't invent the wheel if someone hands you the keys to a Porshe!"--Rely on the subject headings from an indexed article or the bibliography or work cited page from an article or book to find other sources.
Most books on American and British Literature are located in P call number range on the first floor of the library. Here is a general call number range to help you:
P301 to P302
Greek Language and Literature. Latin Language and Literature
Literature (General)--also includes performing arts/film/broadcasting