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NSP: Fire in the Voice

Hints and tips for researching the paper due in this class

What is a search strategy?

Developing a strong search strategy can save you time when it is time to search for resources.  Rather than doing general searching using Google, we recommend that you search using the library databases.  Searching Google is much different than searching library databases.

One facet of database searching that can be difficult to get used to is subject heading or keyword searches.  Rather than typing a question in and expecting instant results, users need to focus on identifying and using controlled language searches.

Identifying controlled language for subject headings and keywords is beneficial for the savvy researcher.  Controlled language is typically assigned by the Library of Congress and is then used universally (or at least in English) by vendors and publishers when identifying main points and ideas for their books, journals and other publications.

Once the controlled language for your topic is identified, database searching is usually much easier. 

Language used on websites by various entities can often be arbitrary and inconsistent.

Suggested Subject Searches

You'll never find one article or book that perfectly answers your research question completely.  This is why you'll consult multiple articles and books to answer your question more fully.

Brainstorming can help with this, as well as doing some preliminary searching without expectations. 

  • Read through your assignment instructions
  • Think about the artist and the creative work that you're exploring
  • Write down words or phrases, the artist's full name, the title of the work, and so on

Head to the article search or book search pages (I suggest the article one first) and do some preliminary searching using just the artist's name.  Look at the subject headings attached to those articles, think about whether they describe what you're looking for or would like to explore. Read through abstracts, click on subject headings and explore your results. Take notes on what you see and discover.

Subject headings to consider using as you search (all of them may or may not be helpful depending on who you are researching):

  • African Americans in
    • in the performing arts
    • in art
    • in literature
    • in music theater
    • in motion pictures
    • in mass media
    • in popular culture
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • African American authors
  • Poetry
  • Criticism
  • Interpretation
  • Intellectual life
  • Blacks, Race identity

These are just a few examples of subject headings that I found doing some preliminary searching. Once you find the right language to phrase your searches, then you can begin to experiment a little.  Try mixing and matching different terms together.  Search them in conjunction with your artist's name.

When searching names, it's best to put the name in quotation marks.

  • For example: "Langston Hughes" OR "Hughes, Langston"
  • Try expanding the databases that you're searching. We've started you in a fairly comprehensive search, but you may want to expand beyond that.  For instance, with Langston Hughes, I want to include more of the literature resources.