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Research Guides

AIS 475 Northwest Native Peoples and the Flora of the Pacific Northwest: Searching Tips

Instructor Cynthia Updegrave

  Design Search Strategy

Your assignment: Sites of Identity
Select a geographic area or historic “region” which must represent a “homeland” of some sort, or carry deep historical and cultural significance for a particular group of people. Then, gather data about your people and place of choice, and identify primary and secondary sources for further research. Procure an image that is in some way reflective of the relationship between your geographic space and the cultural identity of its inhabitants (or exiles).

You must then analyze the visual rhetoric of the image you have chosen. What “claim” does it make about its subjects? What is the relationship between your geographic space and its people’s culture?

One of the more important processes in conducting research is designing a search strategy. The following are things to consider in designing your strategy:

  1. Analyze your topic

    • You may need to find information in different kinds of sources
      [ Books | Journals | Newspapers | Magazines | Media (images, video, sound recordings)]

    • You may need to use more than one database
      [ Some examples: PAIS International | Academic Search Complete | ARTStor ]

    • You may need to explore a subject over a period of time
      [ For example: 5 years | 20 years | 1960s | 19th Century | 20th Century ]

      It is important to clarify what you are interested in finding out about your topic; familiarize yourself with the key issues and context.
  2. Select Keywords
    • Create a list of Related Terms. Another way to express this, is to create a list of synonyms for the important concepts in your topic.

    • Narrower terms: (Good for limiting your search, excluding irrelevant information, or adding focus to your search)
      • Population -gender (men, women), age (children/teens, adults, elderly), groups (artist, educators, clergy, ethnic/racial groups, etc.)
      • Geography - towns, cities, states, countries, regions
      • Time Period - current, decade, 20th Century, ancient
    • Broader terms: (Allow you to explore the broader context of your topic. Good if you're having difficulty finding sources)

  3. Create a Search Query

    Many of our databases require that you use AND or OR to combine multiple terms/keywords in a search.

    See examples below:

    • South Africans AND AIDS (narrows your search, both terms 'South Africans' and 'AIDS' must appear)

    • Peru AND deforestation (narrows your search, both terms 'Peru' and 'deforestation' must appear)

    • African Americans OR blacks (broadens your search, one of the terms must appear. Good for use with synonyms.)

    • Use a technique called truncation with the * symbol to search additional forms of a word.

      Example: cultur* will also find culture, cultures, cultured, cultural, culturing.

      Latino AND cultur*

      Be aware that the truncation symbol may vary depending on the database (*,#,?,!) are the most common.

  4. Evaluate your Search Strategy
    Criteria for evaluating your research strategies and information sources.