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HIST 317: Religion, Power and Politics in Latin America (HC): Search Tips

History 317: Religion, Power and Politics in Latin America (Krippner) Spring 2016

Tips for Searching Part 1

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: Reconciliation, Nations and Churches in Latin America, edited by Iain S. MacLean. Ashgate Press, 2006


               reconciliation   religious aspects   christianity.
               christianity and politics   latin america.
               church and state   latin america.
               reconciliation   political aspects   latin america.
               christianity and culture   latin america.

            Subject search  church and state  latin america  =47 targeted 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:          

   (politic* OR violen*) ("central america*" OR salvador* OR guatemala*) (religio* OR    church)      = 83 results

Tips for Searching Part 2

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 urban AND mexico will return items that contain both "urban" and "mexico":


Rural OR country returns items that contain either "rural" or "country" or both:

violence NOT drug returns items that contain "violence" but not "drug":

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("lucha libre") or titles:

For example, "mexico profundo" will search for Mexico AND profundo in that order, finding the book by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla


Nested Searching:

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

For example, (urban OR city) AND mexico will return results for Mexico and any one (or both) of the parenthetical terms.  

(Many catalogs and databases will have an "advanced search" option, which provides multiple search boxes to facilitate nested searching.)

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.