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Research Guides

Dance: Research Example & Search Strategies

Recomended databases, e-journals, and resources on dance.

Rennie Harris' Creative Process

This is an example of how to search for information on a particular topic in dance. You can generalize the steps to fit your research question.

Research Process

I. Background information or getting the lay of the land


Reference Resources

For some topics, you may want to consult a subject-specific reference book such as International Encyclopedia of Dance or the Oxford Dictionary of Dance which are available online. In addition to background information, articles in reference resources usually include a bibliography of resources.

Unfortunately, due to the length of the publication cycle (even online publications have a lag time because of the peer review and editorial process) and lack of scholarly interest, it might be difficult to find a lot of information on relatively new choreographers or companies--even if they've been active for a decade or longer.

Search Oxford Reference Online

You can search Oxford Reference Online (which includes International Encyclopedia of Dance, Oxford Dictionary of Dance and other performing arts reference resources) from this box. A pop-up window will appear with the results.

For additional print resources,  click on the "Reference Resources" tab in this guide. 


Search Terms

In preparation for searching for information about Rennie Harris' creative process in library catalogs and databases, you may want to think of a list of terms to use in the various catalogs and databases you'll be using. Try to think of different ways of expressing a concept such as creative process.

Also, think of the kinds of resources that might contain that information. For example, a choreographer's creative process encompasses, obviously, choreography. Another way of expressing a choreographer's work might be to call it their craft or their creation. You may look at ideas such as what inspires them, i.e. inspiration. You may want to find articles that talk about the rehearsal process as that is an important component of a choreographer's creative process.

As for the kinds of resources that might contain that type of information, you'll want to look at interviews or search for words like conversation or transcript that imply that the artist is speaking about his or her work. If you're searching for books, you may want to look for autobiographies or biographies. Another useful source of information are documentaries. You can search Dance on Video an online streaming video service the UW Libraries subscribes to or search the library catalog.

Be aware that different systems such as the library catalog or an article database lend themselves to different kinds of searching so terms that work in one system may not work in another.


II. Library Catalogs

UW Catalog Search

  • Keyword search for "rennie harris"
    • ‚ÄčIn the library catalog, if you want to find words as a phrase or name, put the words in quotes, otherwise the system will look for those two words separately. Generally, results with the words as a phrase are ranked higher in the list, so if you forget the quotes, you'll still see the phrase results first.
    • Even though we're looking specifically for information about Rennie Harris' creative process, the library catalog only contains basic bibliographic information and sometimes table of contents information. It's generally better to do a broad search in the library catalog and then look at the records to see if they might be pertinent. Or you can try searching the NYPL Dance Research Collection catalog which has more information in its records or a resource like Google Books which lets you search the contents of the book. 
    • If this were a subject search, you would enter it as either harris rennie or rennie harris. You do not have to capitalize the name or put the name in quotes.
  • Keyword vs. subject headings searches: 
    • In general, if the system lets you browse a list of subject headings or if it will give you options for subject headings like the online catalog does, then you may want to do a subject search for a single concept rather than a keyword search. If there is no subject heading, select the option to search as keywords to retrieve relevant records and then click on the subject headings if they're provided and are useful

New York Public Library Dance Research Collection Catalog

In general, the NYPL Dance Research Collection catalog (select Performing Arts Dance Research from the pull-down menu) contains records for items you'd normally find in a library catalog: records for books and videos; and items you'd normally find in an article database: citations for magazine, journal, and newspaper articles. Since the Dance Research Collection is one of the world's largest collections of dance research resources, the catalog is a wonderful resource for bibliographic information in dance.

Because the NYPL Performing Arts Dance Research catalog contains enhanced records and records for books, videos, and newspaper and journal articles, you can perform more specific keyword searches.

Remember, for any items you find in the NYPL catalog, you need to search the UW catalog to see the resources are available at UW or through Summit. You may need to request items through Interlibrary Loan if they are not available from UW or through Summit.  [ex. Free to Dance (videorecording)]

Articles requested through ILL may arrive electronically within the day; book requests may take from 10-14 days, longer if they're coming from overseas. Not all libraries will loan videos but you can put in your request and see what happens.


III. Too Little or Too Much Information

 If you are getting too many hits, you may need to narrow your search by focusing on subsets of the information you've found. If you are getting too few hits, you may need to broaden your search. The following graphic gives an example.


IV. Periodical Databases Part 1: Arts and Humanities Databases

  • International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance
    International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text contains all of the content available in International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance as well as full text for 100 titles, including Canadian Theatre Review, Dance Chronicle, Dance Teacher, Modern Drama, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Research in Dance Education, Research in Drama Education, Studies in Theatre and Performance, TDR: The Drama Review, Theater, and many more. Additional full text available includes more than 50 books & monographs.

  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index
    Multidisciplinary database covering the journal literature of the arts and humanities. Indexes world's leading arts and humanities journals with selected, relevant items from major science and social science journals

    • rennie harris and creativ*
      The wildcard symbol * takes the place of an unlimited number of letters so the system can search for creativity, creative, and creation all at once. If you forget what the wildcard symbols mean in a particular database, you can usually click on the Help link to access their meanings.

    • If "Check for Full Text" or a similar link is not available, go to the E-Journals page and search for the title. If it's not available electronically, search the online catalog.
      Remember to try out different words in your search and make note of any new words that may emerge from the results.


 V. Periodical Databases Part 2: General Periodical Databases and Newspapers

 Examples of databases you may want to search are:

This is a general article database that searches across disciplines. May be useful as scholars from other areas, especially cultural and gender studies, often write about dance.

  • New York Times Historical
    Great for reviews which are mostly a critic's take on the choreographer's work but they sometimes contain artist statements.

  • US Newsstream
    Here is where you would access articles and reviews from the current New York Times edition.

  • Lexis-Nexis
    Lexis-Nexis has a collection of broadcast transcripts that may be useful to search in addition to its general news search. Also, if your choreographer is from outside of the United States, Lexis-Nexis has an international news (in English) option that may be helpful.


 VI. Searching for Dissertations

Good sources for bibliographies

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses: Full Text

Citations and abstracts are included for the dissertations and theses back to the beginning but only the most recent dissertations are available in .pdf format and only if the author has given permission for ProQuest to make it available.

UW dissertations are available in the University Libraries (at least one circulating copy); UW dissertations produced after 1997 may be available online for free through ProQuest or through the UW Libraries ResearchWorks database.

To get copies of dissertations not produced at UW and not available online, in general, request through Interlibrary Loan. Sometimes libraries purchase copies of select dissertations for their collections so check the online catalog first.


VII. Internet Searches

Some choreographers have their own web pages that may contain useful information that may not be available elsewhere. Also, because a number of news sites both foreign and domestic post their stories online, you may be able to find news stories on websites that you wouldn't be able to find via a traditional database. With the advent of YouTube, you may be able to find videos as well that previously would have been unavailable.

Particularly for newer choreographers, it may be easier to find information on the web versus traditional library resources such as the library catalog or article databases.

As always, you want to carefully evaluate any information you find for authority, accuracy, and authenticity.

About Rennie Harris from the Rennie Harris RHAW website

Rennie Harris Puremovement Facebook page