1. State your research question in a clear sentence.
I’m interested in the theme of death in American fiction.
2. Identify the concepts in your research question.
theme and death and American and fiction are all possibilities.
3. Think of related terms (connected by or) which might also describe your concepts.
(theme or subject or topic) and (death or mortality) and (American or U.S.) and (fiction or novels or literature)
4. Apply special features and put together your statement.
(theme* or subject or topic*) and (death or mortal*) and (America* or U.S.) and (fiction* or novels or literature)
Note that parentheses are only needed when "OR" strings and ANDs are linked in the same box.
- Use wildcards (sometimes called truncation) whenever appropriate. The wildcard character is usually an asterisk.
Ex. theme* will retrieve "theme" or "themes" or "thematic."
- Beware the "phrase-searching trap"! In many databases, you will get additional relevant hits by putting a proximity symbol or the connector AND between phrase words.
Ex. In EBSCO databases, instead of "American literature" type "America* n3 literature" [no quotes] to ALSO catch articles that write of literature in America.
- Use our Databases Help Guide found under the "Research Help" tab on our home page. This guide will help you perform commands like truncation, proximity, and other search techniques, which vary from database to database.
Ex. If you want to retrieve items where two words must appear within three words of each other, we've seen above that in EBSCO databases like Academic Search the command would be America* n3 fiction; but in Lexis, America! w/3 fiction is the correct command.
Full text may be available in another database, so be sure to click on the "Check for Full Text" link!
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