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Comparative Literature 101: Introduction to Literary and Critical Theory (Friedman, Spring 2024): Search Tips

Search Tips

Databases are very literal, and function by matching words exactly Unlike Google and other search engines, databases won't offer alternative search terms, so it is up to you to think of all possible ways to express your research topic, and to spell everything correctly. 

  • Brainstorm all synonyms and like terms and connect these with the operator OR. Example:
    • "climate fiction" OR cli-fi OR clifi 
  • Use quotation marks to retrieve an exact phrase:
    • "climate change"   "global warming"   "environmental justice"
  • When you find a useful book or article, make note of the official subject headings or tags assigned to it and add these to your searches if applicable. 
  • The asterisk (*) symbol will bring up alternate endings to words with a common root:
    • environment* will also retrieve environment, environments, environmental, environmentalist, environmentalism.
  • Use the AND operator to combine separate concepts:
    • imagination  AND "climate fiction"
    • race AND "environmental justice" AND climate

Literary Theory


Boolean Operators:  AND, OR, NOT

Boolean logic is foundational to online searching. The library catalog uses it, article databases use it, and search engines like Google use it (although their algorithms hide the function from view)

AND - searches for things that contain ALL of your keywords

  • ecocriticism  AND drought
  • "environmental justice" AND race

OR - searches for things with ANY of your keywords (really great for synonyms!)

  • (teen OR teenager OR adolescent OR youth) AND (social media)
  • (post-punk OR "new wave") AND music

NOT - searches for things WITHOUT a specifi("video games" NOT wii) AND therapyc keyword

  • zeppelin NOT ledindia
  • kipling NOT poems
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