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ENGL 2131 American Literature: Search Tips for Lit Crit

The guide is for ENGL 2131 (American Literature) class.

Search Tips for Literary Criticism

Search Tip #1: Search Terms

  • Use the Author's name as a search term.  Try various formats:
    • Mary Rowlandson

    • Rowlandson, Mary

    • Mary AND Rowlandson
  • Use the name of the work as a search term
    • No results? Try looking for the title in the full text of the article.
    • Wrong results? Try quotes, e.g. "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" or "The Indian Burying Ground"
  • Use the word, criticism, as a search term
  • Use your topic as a search term, e.g. individualism or the self-made man
    • No results? Try looking within the full text of the article.
    • Try synonyms

Search Tip #2: Know what you're searching

  • Full text - Many databases look for your search terms within the full text of the articles. 
    •  To get more specific results, add more terms.  If you're not getting enough results, use fewer search terms or more general search terms (for example, "music" instead of "jazz.")
  • Item Record -- GIL Catalogs and EBSCOHost databases look for your search terms within the author, title, subject terms, and descriptors of the item, but do not look within the text of the item itself. 
    • You may be able to use a drop-down box to look within the article (the part that says "TX All text") for some terms, like this:

hemingway and bullfighting

Search Tip #3: Become more powerful with Advanced Search and Drop-Down boxes

  • Advanced Search options give you much more control over your search
  • Drop Down boxes can help you look for your search terms as only the title, author, or subject term. 
  • You may be able to use the drop-down box to change a search from an Item Record search to a full text search.
  • Drop Down boxes may change the type of search from All your search terms to Any of your search terms

Search Tip #4: When is an author not an author?

  • The author you are researching is the SUBJECT of your research
  • The person who wrote the article/book about the author is the AUTHOR of the article

For example, if you are looking for an article about the poet Phillis Wheatley, "Phillis Wheatley" is the subject of your search.  If you are looking for a poem written by Phillis Wheatley, Phillis Wheatley is the author.

Search Tip #5: Narrow to Scholarly Sources

  •  Narrow your results to Scholarly Sources (Academic Journals, Scholarly Journals, etc.) when appropriate
  • JSTOR and Bloom's Literary Reference are ALL scholarly sources
  • If in doubt, read the description of the database in GALILEO's Databases A-Z.

Search Tip #6: Whether or not to use Boolean Operators

  • In EBSCOHost, the default search assumes your search is an exact phrase unless the words are connected with the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT
  • Many other databases automatically assume you mean "AND" for your search terms
  • Drop Down boxes may change the type of search from All your search terms to Any of your search terms

Here's an example of a complex search that uses Boolean operators:


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