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HIST 001N: Oil & Empire (SC)

History 001N: First Year Seminar - Oil & Empire - Fall 2013

Search Tips

Search Tips:

  • Use the * to search for variations on your search term.

    Example: petro* will search for petroleum, petrol, petro-violence, petro-capitalism

    Works in: JSTOR, Historical Abstracts

  • Use double quotes "like this" to only search for a specific phrase. Example: "resource curse"

  • Rather than entering keywords that you think describe the topic, try to think about which words would be included in a scholarly article written on your topic and use those as your search terms.

  • To find results that are more directly relevant to your topic, try limiting your search to just words in the abstract (summary) or title.

Choosing Search Terms

Choose search terms that you expect to find in written documents about your topic. 

If you're looking for secondary sources (including journal articles or books written by scholars), use the language you would expect to find in a scholarly publication. 

If you're looking for sources aimed at the public (newspapers, TV news transcripts, blogs), use more colloquial language when searching.

Here are some other ideas to consider:

  • Synonyms, technical terms
  • Transliterations and alternate spellings
  • Alternate or historical place names (e.g. Bombay / Mumbai)
  • Maiden names
  • Initials and full names
  • British spellings
  • Spellings and terms in use during the time period or in the region/country
  • Abbreviations vs. full words

Once you have found a few sources on your topic, take note of the language that is being used and incorporate it into your search.

Start here to find articles:

Scholarly databases (e.g. JSTOR) are tools for finding scholarly journal articles. It's essential to use these tools when doing research for papers, or else you risk missing important scholarly articles that relate to your topic. Scholarly databases will give you a smaller number of search results than a Google search, and it's easy to limit your results to peer-reviewed scholarly articles.

That said, scholarly databases don't work the same way as Google and other search engines. When you search for articles in Historical Abstracts, you're only searching the abstract (summary) of the article. You don't search the full text of the article. So you need to be clever in choosing search terms and using the Advanced Search tools to actually find what you're looking for.

Use the button to actually get the full-text of the article (usually as a PDF). Feel free to ask a librarian for help if you run into trouble.

Help is available!  Sarah Elichko, the librarian for this course, can help you come up with search terms and strategies. Contact her at to make an appointment or ask a question. Or visit her office hours at the McCabe Research & Info Desk.

More Resources for Finding Scholarly Articles

If you can't find scholarly articles that discuss the topic you're interested in, you can try these other resources to expand your options. Don't hesitate to contact Sarah Elichko (librarian for this course) at for help with choosing search terms and getting databases to work well.