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Literary Research Strategy

Introduction

Keyword searching is easy and works pretty well. Deeper into the research process, however, advanced tactics may be needed to find the right scholarship. Unfortunately, library catalogs and databases are constantly changing. Features offered one year may be changed the next. This page is a guide through the morass. It introduces several key search strategies, demonstrates how they work on the Notre Dame catalogs, and provides links to search-engine documentation for multiple scholarly database providers.

Search Strategies on ND Catalogs

The art of searching is all about narrowing results in the right way. Search engines will often let you do so with special keywords or with dropdown boxes. Our own NDCatalog and Onesearch allow the following:

  • AND (both words must appear in the search result):
    • Shakespeare AND "Ben Jonson"
  • OR (one or the other word must appear in the search result):
    • Shakespeare OR "Ben Jonson"
  • NOT (word after "not" must not appear in the search result)
    • Shakespeare NOT "Ben Jonson"
  • Phrase searching with quotation marks
    • "Ben Jonson"
  • Wild cards:
    • Asterisk (*) for searching word stems (allerg* returns "allergic," "allergies," etc)
    • Question mark (?) for replacing one letter in a search (m?n returns "man" and "men")
  • Parentheses
    • (Romantic* OR Victorian*) AND London

Searches can get almost algebraic . Note that capitalization is important: if one fails to capitalize "and," "or," and "not" in the Hesburgh Library catalogs, they will not work as expected. This may not be the case for other scholarly databases.

One other common form of searching, by nearness (find the word "Shakespeare" within ten words of "Jonson"), is not supported by the Hesburgh catalog system, but may be supported by other databases.

Documentation on Searching Other Databases

Below are links to documentation from different scholarly database publishers.