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Arts in Cultural Context: RUS 0871

Research help for the course, RUS 0871: Arts in Cultural Context.

Search Effectively

magnifying glassUnlike Google, library databases often don't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the keywords. 

  • What are important issues related to this topic? Are there specialized terms that experts on this topic might use? What aspects of this topic are being ignored?
  • Who are important people associated with this topic? Who writes about this topic, and whose voices are not being heard?
  • When did important events happen that might have influenced this topic? 
  • Where are important places that might have influenced this topic? What kinds of places are they? 
  • Why does this matter? Why should people care about this topic?
  • How does the information I have found change what I thought about this topic? How and why do different authors discuss this topic differently?


example of venn diagram using ANDUse the word AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.

Example: social media AND mental health 

AND lets you make demANDs with your search.

This search will bring back fewer results than searching either keyword on its own.

example of venn diagram using ORUse the word OR to expand your search with additional keywords.

Example: social media OR instagram 

OR gives you mORe.

This search will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.

Another suggestion is to try using the asterisk symbol ( * ). The asterisk is useful when you have word variations. Place the asterisk symbol at the end of the part of the word all of the variations share


example of venn diagram using both AND plus ORTry combining some of your related keywords together.

Example: mental health AND (social media OR instagram) 

This search will save you time from having to try each keyword combination one at a time.

Use "quotation marks" to search for words in a phrase, such as a proper name.

Example: "social media" AND "mental health"


search terms in a search box using quotation marks

This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.

search results screenMost library databases have search tools built in. Try some of these:

  • Topic/Subject: think of these as official hashtags. Use them to find sources about that subject.
  • Date: limit your search to sources published between specific years
  • Resource Type: limit your search to specific kinds of sources (e.g. newspapers, book chapters, datasets)
  • Peer Reviewed: limit your search to scholarly journal articles

Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!