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AMST 3001: Theories and Methods of American Studies

Research guide for Lisa Goff's Spring 2020 AMST 3001 class

Subject Librarian

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Sherri Brown
Kerchof 102

Subject Librarian

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Christine Ruotolo
108 Kerchof Hall

General research tips

  • Know the difference between scholarly and non-scholarly sources, and when it's appropriate to use them.  By using academic library resources and search tools, you are focusing your research on scholarly sources. Books from academic or university presses can be safely considered scholarly and authoritative. When looking for journal articles, select the option to limit your search to "peer-reviewed" or "refereed" journals, when available. Peer-reviewed articles, like books from academic presses, undergo a rigorous review by other experts in the field before they are approved for publication. This is the highest standard for published scholarship.  
  • Choose the right keywords for your search. If your topic is abolition, consider searching not only on that term, but on related terms and concepts (emancipation, anti-slavery, Civil War, etc.)  Each term will lead to results that provide a different perspective on the topic.    
  • Fine-tune your search using
    • Filters or facets: allow you to narrow your results by source, subject, date range, etc.  
    • Wildcards: in many search engines, the asterisk is a truncation symbol that will match all possible endings for a word stem; i.e. histor* will match history, historical, historicism, historiography, etc.
    • Booleans: combine search terms using AND (gender AND identity), OR (black OR african american) and NOT (shanty NOT sea).
  • When you find a good source, use it to find other good sources.  Use the subject terms and keywords associated with an item to find other items on the same topic.  Scholarly books and articles will have bibliographies and footnotes that you can mine for additional resources.
  • If you're not finding what you need, ask a librarian for help.  The library staff may be able to suggest additional sources that are directly related to your paper topic. 

Finding library materials

Virgo, the UVA Library’s primary search tool, contains catalog records for books, print journals, DVDs, maps, and digitized materials, as well as links to online articles from our rich array of subscription journals.  You can search catalog materials and articles together, or view those results separately, using the "facets" provided to limit your results by author, format, publication period, and more.  

Sample searches:    

  • Choose "Catalog only" search
  • Search for american cultural studies, then select eBook from the Format facet
  • Search for slave tourism, then select Last 3 years from the Publication Era facet
  • Search for "the oriental obscene", then look at the record for that title and use the subject headings to locate more books on related topics

Research using library databases

The UVA Library subscribes to hundreds of databases that contain scholarly resources not available on the free web. Access to most of these databases is restricted to current members of the UVA community; when you are off Grounds, you will be prompted to sign in with NetBadge when using these resources (see the Off-Grounds Access link for more information).

The best way to connect to the library's databases is through the research portal. This page provides a brief list of the most commonly used databases, as well as links to a complete A-Z listing of all our databases. In addition, library subject specialists have created research guides for academic department here at UVA. Subject research guides list the most important databases for conducting research in that discipline.  American Studies draws upon many other disciplines; Other guides that may be useful for this course include:

While many databases contain full-text articles, others are indexes that provide citations for articles, but not the articles themselves. If you see an article citation without the full text, look for the Find@UVA link or button, which will search all of our online content for a copy of the article. Some articles aren't available online but are available in print journals that can be found through VIRGO.  If the library doesn't have the article either online or in print, you can request a copy through Interlibrary Loan.

Sources for scholarly journal articles (interdisciplinary)


Sources for scholarly journal articles (discipline-specific)

Evaluating your sources

Evaluate books:

  • By press
    • University presses are usually best for humanities & social science research
    • There are many other reputable academic presses, but some of variable quality
    • The fact that UVA owns a particular book is usually a good measure of its quality
  • By reviews
  • By number of citations
  • By author reputation
    • Academic affiliation
    • Other works published
    • Web site/CV

Evaluate articles

Citation resources