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Research Guides

French Studies: Topics, Keywords, and Search Tips

Library resources for the study of French and Francophone language, literature, and culture.

From Topic to Research Focus

Strategy A) To narrow your topic to a researchable question or statement, complete the following statements:

1)  I am researching ________________________ (topic)
2)  because I want to find out ____________  (issue/question)
3)  in order to ________________________ (application/significance).


Strategy B) Making Connections. Complete this worksheet to make scholarly connections between a primary text and related themes.

These are just two strategies, get more help by making at appointment with a writing tutor at the OWRC.

Find more suggestions from:

Understanding Keywords

Keywords are the essential elements that describe complex ideas and topics; the important, descriptive nouns and verbs. Do not try to search phrases or sentences—find keywords.

Focus on the concepts at the heart of your question first. Using these core concepts you will generate several relevant keywords that will better focus your search results.

5 Steps to Generating Keywords

  1. Have a well-formed research question
  2. Extract core terms from this research question
  3. Brainstorm a list of alternative terms or phrases for each core term
  4. Organize the list of terms and phrases by creating a hierarchy, indicating broader and narrower terms for each core term
  5. Identify which terms you would combine to conduct a search

Sample Keyword Brainstorm


Le thème de l'identité dans Moi, Tituba, sorcière-- : noire de Salem de Maryse Condé


Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3 Concept 4 Concept 5

 Moi, Tituba, sorcière-- : noire de Salem

Maryse Condé



 I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem


caribbean OR caraïbe*


personal identity

West Indies

oeuvres OR works

Using UW Libraries Search to Find Books and Articles

  • By Topic - Brainstorm keywords.  Type in the keywords that broadly describe your topic. For example: french AND identity.
    Narrow by adding more keywords: french AND identity AND quebec.
    • Use French keywords to find French-language titles:  français AND identité AND québec.
  • By Title - search for a specific book by title. Type in the first few words of the book title in quotations.  For example: "language citizenship and identity in quebec"
  • By Author - search for books written by a specific author. Type in the last name followed by the first name of the author in quotations. For example: "oakes leigh"


On the results screen use the "Resource Type" options on the left toolbar to limit your results to print books, eBooks, articles, etc. Note down the library name and call number for books -- you need this information to locate the book.  For articles, click for online access, or request a scan.

Recreate your search in Worldcat to find more if you need to be comprehensive, and request items that we don't own from there.

Evaluating your Sources

Organize your Research

Citing Sources