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NSP: Memories of Combat

Strategies & tips for locating resources for your research project

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.

Searching Literary Analysis & Historical Subjects

The search strategy that you may opt to use for this particular assignment might be very different than searches you may have done in the past.  You're looking at literary analysis for your novel or memoir, historical information regarding specific battles or wars, modern warfare and individual people involved in all of these.

Wow!  That's a lot of different subjects and ideas to cover and find resources that will help you as you write your paper.  It will be important to remember, now more than ever, that you will never find those "exact match" resources that line up miraculously with every point you want to cover.  Rather, you are going to need to access a wide variety of sources that might cover one or two of your main ideas and work to synthesize those together for your paper.

You have the luxury of not only using the documents you're reading for class but also being able to include a minimum of at least 8 secondary sources to have a well balanced, well thought out research paper.

Below you will find some suggestions for identifying subject headings that you can use for search terms in book catalogs and article databases. Even after identifying subjects you will find that you still need to experiment and spend time searching.  It is very rare to find what you are looking for in the first 10 minutes of searching.  If you spend 30-40 minutes without really finding any resources of value to your paper, that's when you need to stop, take a break and consider asking for some guidance. 

Searching using keywords often works out just fine, but very often specific subject headings will help you to narrow down your results easily.  The use of date ranges of events or a person's life span can be especially helpful. Below you will find some general suggestions.

Keyword Subject Heading
WWI or World War I World War, 1914-1918
WWII or World War II World War, 1939-1945
Korean War or Conflict Korean War, 1950-1953
Vietnam Conflict or War Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Iraq War Iraq War, 2003-2011
Terrorism and war War on terrorism, 2001-2009
Biographies, letters, etc. by soldiers

Soldiers' writings, American

PTSD Post-traumatic stress disorder
biological warfare Agent Orange OR Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin

Improvised explosive devices OR

Improvised explosive devices AND Iraq OR

Improvised explosive devices AND detection

Specific battle names

Stalingrad, Battle of, Volgograd, Russia, 1942-1943 OR

Tet Offensive, 1968

Special Forces United States. Army. Delta Force OR

United States. Navy. SEALs

Groups or combatants

Qaida (Organization) OR

Nazis OR

Communism OR

Prisoners of War OR

Missing in action