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TC 358: Apocalyptic Narratives, Jennifer Wilks

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:

   How zombie films depict climate change

Key Concepts



climate change

Related Keywords

George Romero
horror genre
"living dead"
(virus OR pandemic)

(film OR movie OR cinema)
film theory

environment* OR nature
global warming

  • 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.