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English 4996: Guide to Resources: Childhood in Literature

Resources for writing about portrayals of children in adult literature, poetry, prose, and film.

Research & Criticism

Tips for Database Searching

Because this course is about childhood in literature it shares keywords with children's literature, so many search results will yield results that might not be what you are looking for. One way to get around this is to search by subject. Most databases have specific phrases they use to categorize materials. For example, the MLA International Bibliography Full Text database has a subject named "treatment of childhood" which will have titles more relevant for this course. 

Using EBSCOhost's MLA International Bibliography Full Text, the following examples show how using database search techniques can optimize your research. Often in databases the search bar has multiple fields and allows you to select the Boolean operators to go between each keyword. If they do not, they can still be used to narrow or broaden results. Boolean operators do not need to be capitalized.  

Boolean Operators

AND: Using AND narrows your search results. Using AND makes the database only pull articles with both phrases. 

Example: Just searching the keyword Children returns 70,990 results. Children AND friendship returns 200 results. Children AND friendship AND emotion returns 6 results.  

OR: Using OR broadens your search results. It is useful if you want to include synonyms for your keywords.  

Example: Children AND supernatural returns 149 results. Children AND supernatural OR occult returns 3,221 results. Children AND supernatural OR occult OR mystic returns 4,815 results.

The second search will pull any results that are related to children and supernatural, as well as children and occult. Each additional OR will add more results with the word used. 

NOT: Using NOT narrows your search results. It is useful if you do not want a specific word or phrase in our search results. It can also be used to eliminate concepts that might be associated with your search. 

Example: Children AND Africa returns 690 results. Children AND Africa NOT language returns 372 results. Children AND Africa NOT language NOT western returns 354 results.


Other Techniques

Truncation: Use an asterisk to search for words that share the same root word. Instead of searching and returning results only with the phrase "child", truncation tells the database to return all words that start with "child", so it would find child, childs, children, childhood, childbirth, etc. 

Wildcards: The symbol for Wildcards can vary from database to database, but the most common symbol is a question mark. Use a wildcard to stand in for any English character. This can be used for when words have different common spellings or when words have a hyphen between them.

Example: Wom?n would return results with both women and woman. Colo?r would return results with color and colour. 

Quotations: Placing your search term in quotations makes the database return results where the exact phrase is found, without other words between. 

Example: Problem child will return 477 results. "Problem child" will return 12 results.


Finding Print Books

If you want to find a book for your research, you can search the MERLIN catalog by subject, keyword, author, genre or form, and more. You can also search the MOBIUS catalog, which includes all academic libraries in Missouri, not just the University of Missouri system. These books can be requested and delivered to MU libraries. The MERLIN and MOBIUS catalogs are like any other database, so see "Tips for Database Searching" to optimize your results. However, MERLIN and MOBIUS do not search the full text of these books, just the description. 

Here are some print books you might find helpful for your research: