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Celebrating the Life
Brainstorm and Use Keywords
1. Save time, Prepare to research!
  • Break your research question into key concepts (you'll connect these in your paper to make an original argument).
  • For each of these concepts, brainstorm multiple keywords.

Sample Topic:

women's narration in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Key Concepts


Their Eyes Were ...

Related Keywords


tell OR tells
stories OR story

Zora Neale Hurston
Janie Crawford

  • Try this keyword tool to brainstorm online and send the results to yourself.

2. Combine keywords using AND and OR:
  • Too many results? Try using quotation marks around an exact phrase. Ex: "Their Eyes Were Watching God"
  • Still too many results? Narrow using AND. Ex: "Their Eyes Were Watching God" AND narrat*
  • Too few results? Broaden using OR. Ex: "Their Eyes Were Watching God" AND (narrat* OR voic* OR tell OR tells)
  • Put parentheses around synonyms.
  • The asterisk finds multiple endings. Ex: wom* will bring back women, woman's, wombat, etc.

3. Brush up on the search tools available:
Find Background Information
Background Information can save you time by giving you an overview of your topic.
Learn about concepts, vocabulary, and events related to your texts.
Find keywords to search in subject-specific databases.

Here are some good places to start:
Find Articles, Books, Chapters, Reviews, &...
Now you're ready to find articles, books, chapters, reviews, and more on your topic. For more information, check out the video tutorials to your right.

1. Choose a database or catalog.
Take a moment to think about who might be writing and publishing the kinds of material you need. Will it be in a newspaper? A scholarly journal? A personal letter? When was it likely published?
Look at the English Literature Research Guide and start by choosing one of the boxes in the middle.
Now click on the links to resources that might be useful.
If the resource is a database, the link will take you to a short description of the database. Does it still sound like it will have what you need?
To find more databases for other fields that may speak to your research, check out the list of Databases by Subject.

2. Use your keywords and your search strategies, discussed above, to run a search.

3. Now you'll need to review your list of results to find an article or book that will be useful to you. Are you looking for scholarly or popular or trade sources? Are you looking for primary or secondary sources? Check out this decision tree to help you Evaluate Books and Articles.

4. Found a reference to an article or book you want to read? Where is the article or book?
  • Does the Catalog or database record you have found include full text? (Look for an HTML or PDF link.)
  • If the Catalog, database, or index record you have located does not link to the full article or book, click the button to see if the full text is available electronically or, if you are not already in the Catalog, in print in the library.
  • No button?
  • Copy the name of the journal or book and search for it in the Library Catalog title search.
  • Available? Take a look at the How to Find Books video tutorial to your right to learn how to find books on the shelf.
  • Checked out? Use the link to shorten the due date and get an email when it's ready for you to use.
  • Not in the Catalog? Ask for help or request it through InterLibrary Services.

5. Sometimes an encyclopedia entry, an article, or a book will list other articles and books that could be useful to you. This guide helps you find an article when you only have the citation.

6. Now use your article and catalog research to update your keywords and return to step 1.
Write & Cite
Cite Your Sources: This grid will help you choose and use the right citation tool. For example, NoodleBib helps you format APA, MLA and Chicago style bibliographies you can download as Word documents and turn in.

At the Undergraduate Writing Center you can drop in or make an appointment to visit with a trained writing consultant.
Get Help
Contact the English Literature Librarian:

Shiela Winchester
or on chat

IM a Librarian 
Monday-Thursday, 10am - midnight
Friday, 10am - 4pm
Sunday, 6pm - midnight
Find Articles Video Tutorial

Find Books Video Tutorial