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Disability Studies

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Search Strategies for Disability Studies

Finding keywords for disability studies can be challenging:

  • Critical theory may use its own critical vocabulary and jargon
  • Some terms related to disability may be used as metaphors in other contexts
  • Older work may use dated terminology
  • Older work may not have been cataloged as disability studies at all

Some keywords to try

  • abledness, ableism,ableist, able-bodied, able-bodiedness
  • access, accessible, accessibility
  • ageism, ageist, aging
  • Deaf, deafness, deaf studies (some Deaf people consider themselves to be a linguistic/cultural minority, not disabled)
  • dis/ability, disability, disabilities, "disability studies", "disability rights", disabled
  • disease, dis-ease
  • enable, enabling
  • inclusion, inclusiveness, inclusivity
  • normalcy, normals, normative
  • sick, sickness
  • universal design

Rhetorical constructions in disability studies
If you're looking for specific readings or theorizations of a topic, try combining your keyword with frequently paired terms like:

  • advocate, advocacy
  • biology, biological, bioethics
  • body, bodies
  • critical
  • difference
  • "disability studies"
  • discrimination
  • "identity politics"
  • medical, medicalization
  • microaggression
  • narrative, narratives
  • politics, political
  • representation, representations
  • rhetoric, rhetorical, "visual rhetoric"
  • signify, signifying
  • visible, visibility, invisible, invisibility, visual

Text for this section courtesy of Stacy Reardon and Jennifer Dorner from the UC Berkeley Libraries. 

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:

   Services for college students with disabilities 

Key Concepts

services

college students

disabilities

Related Keywords

accommodations
assistive tech*

university
higher education
campus

disab*
ability
ableism

  • 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: "students with disabilities"
  • Still too many results? Narrow using AND. Ex:  "students with disabilities" AND "assistive technology"
  • Too few results? Broaden using OR. Ex: "students with disabilities" AND (campus OR college OR university OR higher education)
  • 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:

A research question is what forms and guides your literature review. It is the question that you want the literature to answer for you. A research question should be specific, focused, and concise.

To develop a research question, start with a general topic of interest to you. You'll want to do some preliminary and background research on this topic to think through what specific questions you might have.

Examples:

Sample Topic: impact of social media on adolescent physical activity

Sample Research Question: Can social media serve as an effective tool for increasing physical activity among adolescents?

 

Need more guidance on developing your topic into a research question? Check out this video from the library at Northern Kentucky University.

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