ENGL 1302.22 (Dr. Demson)

A guide for finding resources and doing research for Dr. Demson's ENGL: 1302 class

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People's Names as Search Terms

Searching Engine Orange


Here's an example of a search in Engine Orange. You can use AND to find results that contain two or more exact search terms. Use OR to broaden your search with synonyms, and try using NOT to exclude results with an irrelevant term. 

Searching a Database

If you are searching for a topic and not finding what you need, try using synonyms to expand your search results. For example, if you are looking for sources on Soviet work camps and not finding a lot, try thinking of synonyms for your topic: "work camp" = "labor camp" = "gulag"'

Not all sources use the same vocabulary, so taking time to think of synonyms can help your search pick up sources you won't find using only your main term. 

Look at the example searches in the links below to see how many more results we get when using multiple search terms. 


Tips for Searching

Keywords: Where to Start

person writing
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Before you start searching for books or articles, take a moment to think about what you will search for.

Write down keywords, phrases, names, and/or topics that might relate to your topic.

  • Think about synonyms or words with related meanings. For example: womenfemales, wives,....  
  • Put phrases (multiple words that need to be together in a certain order) inside "quotation marks."

How do you come up with the words to write down?

  • Use your textbook (or assigned reading) to help you get started.
  • Brainstorm with your roommate, a classmate, or other trusted friend to also come up with words (they may have different experiences that lead to different terms).
  • Read encyclopedia entries about a related person, place, event, or concept to get ideas for more words. Try the Library's Reference Universe.
  • As you find sources, see what language they use and add new terms to your list to help you refine additional searches.
  • Do a Google or Wikipedia search to try and locate historical synonyms for the modern term you know.

Still stuck?  Visit with a librarian to talk through your ideas.

  • Connect virtually through (See the "Ask Us Now" link on this page)
  • Schedule time with your subject librarian (there is a librarian assigned to each degree plan at SHSU).

If Keyword Searching Doesn't Work!

sticky notes on wall; Photo by You X Ventures on UnsplashRemember:

Some research topics simply don't relate to what people explicitly wrote in literal words.

Read between the lines. Read for what is implied, not just what is clearly stated. Make inferences. Use critical thinking.

Enough, Not Enough, Too Much...

Notice how AND, OR, and NOT relate to each other and connect ideas (see diagrams below).

  • Use OR to connect synonyms or words that could be interchanged: a source should have at least one. Example: cats OR felinesThis finds MORE sources than either word alone would find ("or gets you more!"). 
  • Use AND to connect separate ideas that need to co-exist; a source should have all. Example: "cats" AND "dogs". This finds FEWER sources - only those that mention both cats and dogs.  
  • Use NOT to exclude irrelevant information that might be found by the same keywords. Example: cowboys NOT football. This finds FEWER sources than the first word alone would find.

 Venn diagram illustrating results of a Boolean search for cats OR felines

Venn diagram illustrating results of a Boolean search for African Americans AND Civil War

Venn diagram illustrating results of a Boolean search for cowboys NOT football


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