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ENG 382/WS 381: Gender, Sexuality, and Literature: Search Strategies

Course guide for ENG 382/WS 381: Gender, Sexuality, and Literature. Spring 2017. Instructor: Bianca Isaki.

Research Process

Research is an iterative + creative process. A good research strategy incorporates multiple sources and lots of different search terms. Spend some time exploring your topic before honing in on the perfect research question. 

➡️️ Start with a preliminary research question and identify the key terms. 

➡️️ Before beginning your search, brainstorm additional terms related to your key terms. 

  • Include synonyms, broader terms, and narrower terms

➡️️ As you explore potential sources, add any new keywords you come across to your list. 

  • Most research databases identify subject terms and other key terms in item records

➡️️ Do your search again (multiple times!) with different combinations of key terms.

➡️️ Try searching for the same combinations of key terms in a different database. 

➡️️ Use the bibliography or works cited page of a useful article to identify more relevant sources.

  • Copy + paste the citation into OneSearch Manoa to check if an article is available at the library. 

➡️️ Refine your research question based on your sources. 

  • Searches using certain keywords or in specific databases frame your question in different ways. Note how your sources cluster together and use this information to focus in on the most interesting aspect of your topic.  

Boolean Operators

Once you have identified keywords, be strategic in how you implement them.

  • Seek out the advanced search option in the database and give each keyword its own search box.
  • Use boolean operators to specify the relationship between terms in your search. 

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping is a tool for visually representing ideas and the connections between them. They can be very useful in planning your research. 

In the example below, drawn from Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues, the preliminary research question is in blue; brainstormed search terms are in grey; new search terms drawn from articles are orange; citations for relevant articles are green; and a new, refined research question is shown in red. By visualizing the research process, I was able to identify a new, more specific research question. The next step in the process would be to go back to the novel to identify passages that are relevant to my question. Concept map showing search terms related to the question: "What is the relationship between class and gender in Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues"

You can create a concept map the old fashioned way (with pen+paper) or using a free online tool like MindMup