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English 1160: Science Fiction & Belonging

General Tips

  • When searching authors, put the surname first.
  • Non-English names/titles may be transliterated or translated in various ways, so try variant spellings.
  • Literary works and films may be listed by their original non-English title rather than by an English translation.
  • Put an AND between words when you want to find all the words: science fiction AND women
  • Put an OR between words when you'd be happy with one word or the other or both: science fiction AND (women OR feminism)
  • Use truncation symbols (usually *) to search for variants: femin* retrieves feminism, feminist, feminists, feminine, etc.
  • Use a wildcard (usually ? or #) to substitute for letters within a word: wom?n retrieves woman, women, womyn. # is often used when there may or may not be a letter: labo#r retrieves both American labor and British labour.
  • Use quotation marks around a phrase to retrieve that exact wording: "science fiction"
  • If you get too much, limit your search to subject headings or descriptors.

Subject Searching

Many databases "tag" or add terms to the articles  --  similar to tagging pictures in Facebook.  

The agreed-upon, standard terms used in library catalogs and databases are called subject headings or descriptors

The subject headings in a catalog or database record will often help you locate more books/articles that are similar.  It works much as "find more like this" or "find similar" links do elsewhere.


Full Text Searching

Searching in full text databases often retrieves many things that seem unrelated. The search engine is finding the words, but they are far apart in the document. Proximity operators help solve this problem! These tell the search engine to return results when two words are within x number of words of each other. So Wilmington n5 riot, retrieves newspaper articles with these words within 5 words of each other: race riot in Wilmington, Wilmington North Carolina rocked by riot, etc.

The abbreviation used as a proximity operator varies from one database to another. When you are in the database, look for the "help" button to find specific search tips.

If you are searching within the full text of older materials, remember that terms used and their spelling may have changed:

  • Female authors were often identified as Miss or Mrs. [surname] without their first name.
  • Terms now considered offensive may have been in common use.
  • In very old texts a W was printed as two Vs or even two Us.

In the online versions of some older texts, the scanning technology cannot accurately reproduce damaged text, so the search function may not be optimal.