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E 314V / AFR 315: African American Literature & Culture, Annie Bares

Preparing to Search

Preparing to Search

Sometimes, you find exactly what you need with your first search. But it often doesn't work out that way! Try this step-by-step brainstorm before you search the library catalog or databases. 

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:

   Afro-futurism in Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower

Key Concepts


Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower

Related Keywords

(African-American OR  Black OR African diaspora)

Black women writers
(science fiction OR sci-fi OR genre fiction)

climate change

  • 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: "women's health"
  • Still too many results? Narrow using AND. Ex: wom*n AND illness
  • Too few results? Broaden using OR. Ex: (wom*n OR female*) AND (pain OR ill* OR disease)
  • Put parentheses around synonyms.
  • The asterisk finds multiple endings from a root word. Ex: wom* will bring back women, woman's, wombat, etc.

3. Brush up on the search tools available:

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.