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English 111: Introduction to Literature: Tips for searching

Resource guide for course taught by Nancy Kennedy

Finding an academic journal

Here is an example of how to search for a journal in the database, Academic Search Premier.  The steps in ProQuest are similar except you can only search by title.

Keyword searching in a database

When searching a periodical database, like ProQuest or Academic Search Premier, your goal is to get a reasonable number (around 50) of highly relevant articles.  To do this, use keywords (alone and together) to describe the type of information you are looking for.

► To find biographical information on an author, type the author's name in the search box and add the word biography. 

     Example: fitzgerald AND biography

► To find criticisms of an author's work in the library databases, type the author's name or the name of the work and the word criticism in the search box and/or name the theory

     Example: de maupassant AND criticism
                      "joy luck club" AND criticism
                      alexie AND multicultural*

•  To find information on themes and theories, use the word for the theory you are researching and combine it with another word. 

     Example: formal* AND literature 

(The * after the word, form*l, is called truncation.  Using this tells the database to find articles that have various endings to formal, such as formalist and formalism.)

Focusing your search

Other ways to focus your searches:


√  Check the box that will limit your results to academic journals only

√ Check the box that will limit your results to full-text articles only

√  Define a date range (for example: 2000 to 2009)

√  Use their "Suggested Topics" or "Find More Like This" feature

For more help and suggestions, contact your librarian.