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ARTS 218: Chinese Calligraphy as an Art Form (HC): Search Tips

FINE ARTS 218: Chinese Calligraphy as an Art Form (Li) Spring 2017

Tips for Searching Part 1

Keywords allow you to construct a search that reflects multiple issues in your research question. Building sets of related concepts and looking for their overlaps gives you more relevant and precise results.  This approach is called Boolean searching using the operators AND, OR, NOT.

A search for calligraph*  AND chinese  will return items that contain both words including the variations calligraphy/ic because of the truncation *:


ming OR qing  returns items that cover either or both of the dynasties:

visual NOT art returns items that discuss the visual but do not mention art:

Phrase searching:

Enclose phrases in quotations marks.  This is an important strategy for getting exact results when searching phrases (e.g., "brush stroke*") or conducting known-item searches for titles ("Chinese Writing and Calligraphy") .


Truncation and Wildcards:

Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.

For example, one could search for politic*  to find poltic, politics, political, politicians, and so on.

Wildcard searches are for differences within words: a search for wom?n will return results for woman, women, and womyn.


Nested Searching:

When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.

  calligraph* AND (china OR chinese) AND (writing OR characters)  will return results for the intersection of the three subject areas.

Tips for Searching Part 2

Subject Headings allow you to find relevant material grouped together including titles that do not use the keywords you may have been searching.


Finding subject headings

       Look at a book record in Tripod, check the subjects assigned to it, and choose whatever ones are relevant for your research.

Example:  Art as History: Calligraphy and Painting as One

By Wen Fong.  Princeton University Press, 2014,


                              painting chinese

                              calligraphy chinese

                              art  chinese

                              china  civilization.


            Subject search   painting chinese  =  507 results


Refining subject searches

                        You can combine different concepts into a single subject search for precision.  The results are more focused than a keyword search.

                         But all the words have to be terminology used in library subject cataloging.

                         To ensure this, use subject headings you have already found.  Another option is to browse in the subject headings for more choices.                   

                          Combination subject search:

                 Subject:  (art OR painting) calligraph* (china OR chinese)  =  54 results