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ARTH 149: The Classical in Art and Literature (SC) Spring 2016

Tips for finding relevant articles

• Think up a few synonyms that describe your topic. Think about how scholars might discuss it, and if there are various spellings or translations that could come up in a scholarly article or book on your topic.

• Look out for Advanced Search forms (usually they have multiple search boxes). These can be useful for running 1 search that looks for articles matching any of those synonyms.

• Once you're comfortable with Advanced Search, you can run complex searches that try a lot of possibilities at once. Look for a Search History link, and you might be able to "cross" your various searches to find sources that include both sets of keywords, or match either set. (Confused? Ask a librarian!)

• In most databases, put exact phrases in double quotes "like this." To search for various word endings, use an asterisk, e.g. painting* brings up results for painting or paintings.

Tips for Searching

The large number of citations in many catalogs and databases requires one to limit otherwise broad or general searches in order to retrieve a manageable and pertinent number of results.  Conversely, 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 one to limit or expand searches depending on his or her needs.

For example, a search for Resnais AND Holocaust will return items that contain both "Resnais" and "Holocaust":


Resnais OR Holocaust returns items that contain either "Resnais" or "Holocaust" or both:

Resnais NOT Holocaust returns items that contain "Resnais" but not "Holocaust":

Phrase searching:

An important strategy for one to employ when researching phrasal concepts (e.g., "European Union") or conducting known-item searches for titles:

For example, Hiroshima Mon Amour will search for Hiroshima AND Mon AND Amour.

However, "Hiroshima Mon Amour" in quotation marks will search for Resnais' film of the same name.


Nested Searching:

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

For example, (memory OR nostalgia) AND Resnais will return results for Resnais and any one (or both) of the parenthetical terms. 

(Many catalogs or databases will have an "advanced search" option, which provides multiple search bars 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 searching works similarly: a search for t??th will return results for teeth, tooth, tenth, and so on.