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WRPR 191 Constructions of Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World (HC): Search Tips

Writing Program 191 Constructions of Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World (Evans) Spring 2019

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 ethnicity AND roman will return items that contain both "Roman" and "ethnicity":


race OR ethnicity  returns items that contain either one of the terms or both:


greek NOT athens returns items that talk about Greek culture, history, etc. but do not mention the city or city-state of Athens:

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("fayum portraits") or titles:

For example, "golden ass"

will search for those words in that order, finding the novel by Apuleius as well as modern criticism about it.


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

For example, (greek OR roman) [Subject] AND  (race OR racial OR ethnic*)  will return results for the union of the two subject areas.
Results from the search include:

Race: Antiquity and Its Legacy
by McCoskey, Denise Eileen, 1968- 
Oxford University Press, 2012
Creating Ethnicities and Identities in the Roman World
Institute of Classical Studies, 2013

Mummy portrait

Portrait of a young woman in red, painted panel with wax and gold leaf, Egypt, 90-120 C.E.

(Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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:  Romulus' Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian

Written by Emma Dench.  Oxford University Press, 2005.


                           National Characteristics, Roman

                           Ethnicity  Italy  Rome

                           Group Identity  Italy  Rome


            Subject search   Ethnicity  Italy  Rome  =  25 results


Refining searches

           You can combine different concepts into a single search for your particular interest, using subject  terms and keywords where needed.

             When you want material gathered together by librarian indexers, use subject headings you have already found.  Another option is to browse in the subject headings for more choices.                   

                          Combination search:

       (ethnicity OR acculturation OR identity) [Subject]  AND  (gaul OR provinces[Keyword] = 262 entries