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ENGL 1012: Hauntings: Tips for Searching

Tips for Searching

8. While Google understands natural language searches, most library databases don't. As we move forward with our searching, and begin to look for books and articles, it is good to get into the habit of setting up your searches in terms of keywords, and linking them together using AND. 

For example, if you're doing research about feminism in ghost stories, then a basic search could be:

   feminism AND "ghost stories"

It is also important to think about synonyms, alternate terms, and even variations in spelling. Brainstorm all the different keywords and phrases that might apply to your topic. This will allow you to try a number of different searches until you get the most relevant results, and will help you be comprehensive in your searching. In this case, use OR to link your terms together.

For example:

   (feminism OR gender OR women) AND "ghost stories"

If you're doing research on a particular novel or short story, then put the title in quotes. You can also put author names in quotes, or anything you want to search as an exact phrase.

For example:

     "the yellow wallpaper" 

     "they yellow wallpaper" AND (madness OR hysteria)

     "the yellow wallpaper" AND "mental illness"

     "the yellow wallpaper" AND depression

     (mythology OR myth) AND beloved AND morrison

     medea AND beloved AND morrison 


     "postpartum depression"

     "postpartum depression" AND literature

     "postpartum depression" AND "ghost stories"


Tips for searches: Don’t use full sentences or questions

                             Break your topic down into keywords and phrases

                             Brainstorm all of the different keywords and phrases that might be relevant to your topic 

                             Link keywords together with AND

                             Use OR for synonyms or alternate terms

                             Use quotes to search for an exact phrase (e.g. "ghost stories")