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HIST 192 R (Research Seminar in Public History) Bergstrom: Research Tips

Research Guide for Asian American Studies 168D (Asian American History from 1965-present)

Research Tips and Strategies

  • When keyword searching, use key words that best describe your topic.  The objective is to get a small group of relevant records.  People, places themes, characters, time periods, events, types of information (i.e. ethnography) issues and more can be key words.  What words or phrases best describe your topic?
  • For locating primary source material, consider these “subject keywords”: sources, documents, personal narrative, documentary history, archives, manuscripts, correspondence, speech*, oration, statistics, cartoon*, interview*, oral history*.

  • Evaluate your search results.  Click on the title to view the entire reocrd, including chapters and subject headings.  If you don’t see related materials in the top 10-20 items of your search results, reconstruct your search using alternative keywords, synonyms, narrower terms, more terms, etc.  
  • Note the citation/source information (journal title, volume #, issue #, and date) before leaving the database, even if just to go to another window.  The citation is the most important information in the database record and is required to locate the article text, online or in print.
  • Raid bibliographies.  Books and articles have bibliographies and references.  Use them so you don’t have to spend hours database searching.

  • In the library, like materials are shelved together.  When looking for a particular book on the shelf, also scope out what’s shelved next to it.  Books and back issues of periodicals are inter-filed on the shelves in call number order.

  • Consult a librarian. We work across the disciplines, will refer you if necessary, and can help track down sources, explain library services, interpret citations and find the most useful keywords.  The Ask a Librarian service provides 24/7 access to a librarian.

Brainstorming for Keywords

Research Question:

representation of women in the film industry

Brainstorming Keywords:


















Research Question:

birth, death, and legacy of post-punk music

Brainstorming Keywords:










new wave

no wave


pop music

Keywords and Subjects

Boolean Basics

Boolean Logic:  And, Or, Not

Boolean logic is foundational to internet/electronic-based search. The library catalog uses it, journal databases use it, even Google -beneath all those mysterious relevancy algorithms - uses it!

AND - searches for things that contain ALL of your keywords

  • "video games" AND therapy
  • post-punk AND music

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

  • ("video games" OR "computer games") AND (therapy OR exercise)
  • (post-punk OR "new wave") AND music

NOT - searches for things WITHOUT a specific keword

  • ("video games" NOT wii) AND therapy
  • (post-punk NOT "new wave") AND music

A Guide to Evaluate Sources


Authority: Ask yourself, who wrote this? Do the author's credentials, education, past writings and experience impress you? Does the author cite credible,
authoritative sources?

Currency: When was it written? Is the source current and up-to-date for your topic?

Relevance: Is the information useful to you? Is the source extensive or marginal in its coverage of your topic?

Audience: Who is the intended reader? Is this source written for a popular audience? Or a scholarly audience?

Bias: Does the author have a specific bias? Is the author trying to persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view?

Shhhh! Librarian Secrets, Revealed!

"quotation marks" tell the catalog/database to search for your terms as a phrase
  • "video games" OR "computer games"
  • "new wave"
 asterisk* (truncation) finds variations...
  • vampire* = vampire, vampires
  • educat* = educate, educating, educator, educators, education
  • wom* = woman, women, wombat...
                          (so be careful how you use it!)

parentheses nest concepts -- like in math
  • music AND (post-punk OR new wave)
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