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ENGL 1012: American Short Stories: Tips for Searching

Tips for Searching

8. While Google understands natural language searches, most library databases don't. 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 jazz music and African American literature, then a basic search could be:

   jazz AND literature AND "african american"

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:

   (jazz OR music) AND "african american" AND (literature OR fiction)

   (jazz OR blues) AND literature

   jazz AND (literature OR novel OR fiction)

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

For example:

     "sonny's blues" 

     "sonny's blues" AND music

     "james baldwin" AND music

     girl AND "jamaica kincaid"     

     girl AND "jamaica kincaid" AND (women OR gender)

     girl AND "jamaica kincaid" AND (womanhood OR girlhood)

     "bartleby the scrivener" AND (work OR employment OR office)

     "bartleby the scrivener" AND (work OR routine)

     "where are you going, where have you been"

     "where are you going, where have you been" AND (adolescence OR girlhood)

     "where are you going, where have you been" AND parents

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. "soca music")