English Literature: Search Strategies in Databases ~ For Articles

  • Last Updated: Jun 21, 2022 2:08 PM
  • URL: https://knox.libguides.com/English
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Searching Phrases

 To search for phrases:

Put them in quotation marks.

Examples :

“moll flanders”

“eighteenth century”

“gender identity"

"epistolary novel"

Choosing & Combining Terms

Developing a Search Strategy


Finding Keywords - use the same reference works indicated under topic selection to investigate key terms for your search

Brainstorming  Keywords



Always Start by Brainstorming Keywords before doing the keyword search.  First, break the topic down into parts, then brainstorm synonyms for each part.



For example if your research question was : What is the significance of prostitution in Richardson's works?

You would break down the concepts - and then brainstorm synonyms, broader and narrower terms

Concepts                                               Synonyms, broader terms, narrower terms                              

Prostitution                                                      prostitute or whore

Richardson                                                       Enlightnment, 1700-1799

His Writings                                                     Pamela, Clarissa, novel


Think of both synonyms AND more specific or broader examples.

So, if your topic concerns a theme in a particular work, you might also want to search for articles discussing that theme in the author's other works or in other authors of the same period. These will still potentially lead you to insights for your own analysis of the work you have chosen. 


Combining Keywords and Building the Search

Using AND & OR


  • Use AND to connect terms when you want BOTH terms present


·          Example: richardson and prostitution


  •   Use OR to connect terms when you want EITHER term – when you are using synonyms

Example: prostitute or whore



  • AND & OR Together – use Separate Boxes or Parentheses

Example with boxes:

Box 1 :   prostitute or whore

Box 2:    richardson or pamela or clarissa

Example with parentheses :

(prostitute or whore) AND (richardson or pamela or clarissa)










  Truncation allows you to search for multiple forms of a word with one term. Examples:

prostitut* = prostitute, prostitutes, prostitution

femin* = feminine, feminism, feminist, feminists

Beware of truncating too short - and getting irrelevant things, for example just liter* would include too many words and all would not be related what you are doing for this course.