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ENWR 1510: Writing about Culture/Society

Dionte Harris · Spring 2018

General searching tips

  • Fine-tune your search terms.   Most databases have filters or facets that allow you to narrow your results by subject, date range, etc.  You can combine search terms using AND (race AND sexuality) and OR (black OR african american).  In many databases, the asterisk is a truncation or "wildcard" symbol that will match all possible endings for a word stem; i.e. sex* will match sexism, sexual, sexuality, sexualize, etc.
  • 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.
  • Know the difference between academic and non-academic sources, and when it's appropriate to use them.  Most databases allow you to limit results to academic (aka scholarly or peer reviewed) sources. Be mindful of the assignment and what you're being asked to provide.
  • 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 books & other library materials

Virgo, the U.Va. 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 audre lorde; and
  • Select Lorde, Audre from the Author facet to find books written by the author; OR
  • Select Criticism and Interpretation from the Subject facet to find books written about the author's work; OR
  • Select Ebook from the Format facet to limit to books are available online; OR
  • Select Special Collections from the Library facet to find rare and archival materials related to the author

Finding scholarly journal articles

The MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB) indexes the broadest range of resources about literature in all languages, as well as film, television, and popular culture, including over 4,000 journals as well as books and dissertations.  It is not a full-text resource, meaning that you can only search the description of an article, rather than the text of the article.  To get the full text of an article, click on “Find article @ UVa Libraries”, or look up the journal title in VIRGO.

JSTOR contains back issues (usually 3-5 years old or older) of significant scholarly journals in many subjects, including language and literature. JSTOR is not as comprehensive as MLAIB, but the full-text search will do a better job of picking up matches for specific themes or subjects.  Articles are immediately available as PDFs.

Project Muse provides full-text searching of recent articles from major scholarly journals, including roughly 120 journals about literature.  Like JSTOR, Project Muse is not as comprehensive as the MLAIB, but offers the advantages of full-text searching and instant access to PDFs.

Academic Search Complete is a large general database of articles from scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers on many topics. Updated daily, it can be the best source for resources about very current topics.

Helpful books