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RELG 398: Senior Thesis Seminar (HC)

Religion 398: Senior Thesis Seminar Part I (Wiley)

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 religion AND soul will return items that contain both concepts:


soul OR religio* making returns items that contain either one of the concepts or both:


Germany NOT Finland returns items that talk about Germany but do not mention Finland:

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("black and white") or titles:

For example, "The Oxford dictionary of philosophy"

will search for those words in that order, finding the book The Oxford dictionary of World Religions.


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 religio*  to find religious, religions, religion, 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.

religio* AND history AND 20th AND ("united states" OR america*) will return results for the union of the three subject areas

 Results include:  The Religious Critic in American Culture


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:   The Religious Critic in American Culture

By William Dean. 


               Religious thought > United States > 20th century. 
               Religion and culture > United States > History > 20th century.
               United States > Civilization > 20th century.
               United States > Religion > 1945-
               United States > Religion > 1901-1945.
               United States > Intellectual life > 20th century.
               United States > History > Philosophy.
               United States > Moral conditions. 


   Subject search United States > Religion > 1901-1945 = 10 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.

However, 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.