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ENGL 290 Research Methods McGraw

Choosing where to search

ENGL 290 Your Guide to Research Methods and Critical Perspectives

 book covers


Choosing the correct database can increase your "signal to noise ratio."

You can get more relevant results and fewer irrelevant ones. 

Building a search string

A successful search process involves:

  • identifying the search terms that will return an optimal set of results,
  • or will lead to the discovery of relevant and appropriate sources.

Keyword searching:  The first step is figuring out what the key words actually are.

The words are the key that unlocks the answer.

One technique is to actually tell someone (or the mirror) what you are trying to do"

Maybe something like " I am writing about what Jane Eyre can teach us about how gender was portrayed in VIctorian literature."

So your key words are:

  • Jane Eyre
  • gender
  • Victorian

If you are looking in a literature-focused database to begin with, "literature" probably will not be very helpful.

In the field literary criticism, either the title of the text, or the author's name will  likely be one of your key terms.

"jane eyre" AND "gender roles"


Controlled vocabulary searching

This kind of search is different in that it uses a set of already-agreed-upon terms to link like concepts in one work to the same concepts in another (or others).

ShelleyMary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851 -- Criticism and interpretation


WildeOscar, 1854-1900 -- Travel -- United States

Because of the peculiar construction of these "subject tracings" it's probably best to use them to track down additional relevant works once you have found a first one.




Making sense of results



These tools give you a way to narrow down your results to remove irrelevant records from your set.

filter example

Virtual Browse

This feature is unique to Alma. It shows you what titles are "on the shelf beside" the one you select.

virtual browse