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ENGL 420: Senior Capstone Seminar: Search Strategies

This guide will support your capstone proposal and annotated bibliography assignments.

Using Keywords

1. Generate a set of search terms related to your topic.  These will be the keywords with which you begin searching.

M. Butterfly                        adaptation            literary criticism        
David Henry Hwang         production             literary analysis              
cultural stereotypes          interpretation         feminist theory   
orientalism                       performance         post-colonialism      
gender                             stage design                    

2. Combine your search terms using various strategies. 

Employ the AND operator to narrow your search to results that mention both keywords: cultural stereotypes AND orientalism will capture items that discuss both concepts.

Use the OR operator to broaden your search by using variants or synonyms of the same keyword: Monsieur Butterfly OR M. Butterfly 

The asterisk (*) is a wildcard symbol that is used to catch various endings of a word: postcolonial* captures items with keywords that begin with postcolonial--  (postcolonialism, postcolonial, etc.).  

Use quotation marks to search for an exact phrase: "cultural stereotype", "cultural theory"

Keywords vs Subject Headings

When using disciplinary databases, such as MLA International Bibliography, you will notice that some of your keywords will point you to relevant subject headings. Use these subject headings to narrow your results or find new sources. 

Citation Chasing

When you find a particularly helpful source that advances your research project, always check the list of references for additional sources of interest. Search for the article or book title in our Library search system to see if we have access to it. If we don't have it, request it via Interlibrary Loan. 

Google Scholar can point you to additional sources that cited scholarship of interest to you, and may help you develop further understanding of a wider, scholarly conversation.