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RELG 150: South Asian Religious Cultures (HC): Search Tips

Religion 150: South Asian Religious Cultures (Martinez) Spring 2015

Tips for Searching Part 1

If you search a catalog or database and receive a large number of results, add a limit or additional keyword in order to retrieve a manageable and relevant number of results to review.  At the same time overly narrow search terms can return too few results.  One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which allow you to limit or expand searches depending on your needs.


For example, a search for hinduism  AND ritual will return items that contain both concepts":


ritual OR practice returns items that contain either one of the concepts or both:

violence NOTdomestic returns items that talk about violence but excludes those that deal with domestic violence

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("sacred texts") or titles:

For example, "vernacular islam"

will search for those words in that order, finding, among other titles, the 2006 book  In Amma's Healing Room: Gender and Vernacular Islam in South India  Connect from Bryn Mawr College      Icon     Icon 


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, politicking, 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 linking keywords, it is important to "nest" like terms together within a larger Boolean search.

("south asia*" OR india*)  (hindu* OR muslim* OR islam*)  (women* OR gender* OR female*)  will return results for the union 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 be 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:  Tradition and Liberation: The Hindu Tradition in the Indian Women's Movement  

By Catherine A. Robinson .  St. Martin's Press, 1999.


                     feminism  south asia  history  20th century

                    women and religion  south asia  history

                    women in hinduism  india  history

                    hinduism and politics  india  history

                    women  political activity  south asia  history  20th century


   Subject search   women in hinduism  =  28 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, you can use subject headings you have already found.  Another option is to browse in the subject headings for more choices.                   

                          Combination subject search:

           ("south asia*" OR india) religio* (customs OR social OR worship OR devotion*)  =  125 results

                 Searches a composite group of terms about religion within a geographic area and concerning people's practices