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English & Comparative Literature Research Guide: Journal Articles

Literary & Multidisciplinary Databases

Contexts: Cultural, Historical, Social...

Search Strategy & Technique

Be elastic & be specific. Both are necessary. Research is a fluid, creative and elastic process. For example, you can narrow down your topic when it is too broad or when you find too much information. Using specific words can make your search results more precise. You can expand, refine, and revise your search words when you do not find enough information or the right information. Always, pay attention to new keywords and subject words that you will discover in the book or article citation/description. Add them to your notes. You may be surprised that your essay will miraculously grow from your words, thoughts, and notes over time.

The following techniques will help you create more effective search statements in computerized database searching.

1. AND -- To narrow down/refine a topic by combining two or more keywords 

Agency AND philosophy   
Moral agency AND (women or gender)
Agency AND Victorian Women

2. OR
 -- Nested search to include synonyms or related words

(Class OR socialism)
(bloodline OR kinship OR heredity)


3. NOT--Use not to exclude a keyword

Social Class NOT Race
Love NOT Sex


4. "   " -- Use double quotes to search topic as a phrase

"Love letters"
"Victorian Era"

5. *  -- Use the asterisk (also called wildcard) to truncate words so you can retrieve letters after the word stem

orient* ->  orient, oriental, orientalism
sex* -> sexes, sexual, sexuality