When doing research on a literary topic, the best way to begin is by brainstorming keywords and concepts related to your topic.
Consider the following:
-Writer's Name - both his/her formal name and/or any nicknames or alternate name spellings.
-Title of Work - both the offical name and any alternate titles or spellings (including those of other languages).
-Literary Genre - examples include memoir, novel, poetry, short story, etc.
-Geography / Ethnicity - important for literature from a particular place/region (Mexico, Asian) or by a particular ethnic group (Chicano, Japanese).
-Date - examples include a specific year, decade or century (19th Century, 21st Century).
-Period / Style - this category can also be tied to literature of a particular time period. Examples include: magical realism, post-modern, Romanticism, etc.
Building a bank of keywords will make the rest of your research much simpler.
1. Gather background information, which will give you some key words to start with, and make your research a little easier.
2. Brainstorm other search terms: think of synonyms, or more technical terms, or official language vs. colloquial language
3. Think of some narrower search terms to get even more specific and some broader words in case you aren't finding much.
4. Think about what ideas and terms are related to your subject that might also be helpful.
Even when you've got a good keyword bank started, keep adding to it!
If you find a good article or book, look at the data record to see what other terms and subjects are used to describe it.
Why can't I just search for my thesis and use what comes up?
Well, ideally, your thesis statement is something unique. Why bother writing about something that's already been written? If your thesis statement is somewhat unique, searching for it won't bring up anything very relevant.
You need to break your thesis statement down into main concepts. You'll most likely be researching the concepts as separate entitites then weaving them together through your interpretation. For example:
Your thesis statement might be something like: Government funding hurts the arts by aiding only established artists, putting political pressure on artists, and discouraging the risk-taking thought processes that are essential to the production of good art.
Googling this might bring up a few semi-relevant results, but to find sources that support this thesis, you'll need to look at the main ideas individually:
Remember that with library resources especially, it pays to search smart:
use AND in between search terms to group them together
use OR for more results
use NOT if you want to exempt a word from your results
use quotation marks "_" to isolate phrases
use the wildcard * to get all versions of a word
Research is like a treasure hunt or solving a mystery.
We have to try to combine the right terms in the right place to find the information we need.
How should you combine search terms to find what you are looking for?
Search for information using the single most important term related to your topic. Use this type of search when looking for basic background information.
Search for information by combining key concepts using the words you have brainstormed. Each concept/word should be separated by the word "AND". Use this kind of search when looking for specific evidence related to your claim/thesis.
Getting Too Many Irrelevant Results?
Add more search terms for narrower results.
Getting Too Few Relevant Results?
Change, switch out, or remove some search terms for more accurate or broader results.