Search Strategies

Common subject headings for literature:

[author or work] Criticism and Interpretation
[author] Biography
[name or topic] in Literature
[author] Correspondence
[author] Influence
[author or work] Adaptations
[author] Manuscripts

Other tips:

  • Remember to use the limiters in the library catalog and databases. They will help you refine your search.
  • If using a database, see if it has an advanced search feature.
  • Start with a narrow search or very specific term. If that doesn't locate the right sources, back out and try a broader term.
  • Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases. For example, a search using the term "Canterbury Tales" (in quotes) will find materials specifically related to Chaucer's poem. Although omitting the quotes will find sources related to the poem, it will also locate sources on the English city of Canterbury and any record containing the word tales.
  • Use a Boolean operator (AND, OR, NOT). For example, the search phrase Johnson AND dictionary will locate sources related to Dr. Samuel Johnson and his dictionary. Canterbury NOT Chaucer will locate sources related to the city of Canterbury but omit Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Ireland OR Irish AND Literature is an example of a single search containing variants of the same term.
  • Try a truncated search. For example, adding an asterisk after poe* will find sources containing the words poem, poems, poet, poets, poetry, poetics, poetical, etc.
  • Be Sherlock and follow the clue... It's perfectly OK to find a book or article related to the topic of your research and "mine the footnotes," i.e., see what sources the author used and then use them yourself.
  • Search more than one database. There is some overlap, but the content is not identical.
  • Ask an expert. UNM librarians are happy to help. Stop by the reference desk on the first floor of Zimmerman Library, visit our Ask a Librarian page, or contact the English Librarian, Glenn Koelling, at gkoelling@unm.edu.