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ENWR 1510: Writing About Illness

Research guide for Sarah Berkowitz's Fall 2020 ENWR 1510 class.

Preparing for Research

This guide was created to help you prepare for your final paper and as a general guide to resources for researching the many facets of illness. 

In preparation for your assignment, you should think about some possible questions or topics of interest to begin your research. You will also want to spend some time thinking about how you will conduct your research. 

  • Fine-tune your searches.
    Think broadly when brainstorming search terms - what synonyms or related terms could stand in for your key search terms?
    You can combine search terms using AND (polio AND history) and OR (tuberculosis OR TB OR consumption). 
    In many databases, the asterisk (*) is a truncation or "wildcard" symbol  that will match all possible endings for a word stem.  For example, sex* will match sexism, sexual, sexuality, sexualize, etc. 
    Most databases have filters or facets that allow you to narrow your results by subject, date range, etc. Limit your searches to help you find the sources you need. 

  • Think about where you might find the type of information you are seeking.
    Will you find the research you need in a book? An article? A newspaper? A documentary? An interview? Cast a wide net when looking for the types of resources that could help answer your research question or support an argument you are making. 

  • 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/scholarly/peer-reviewed sources. Be mindful of your assignment and what you're being asked to provide -- in this case, you need at least one academic source that is not on your syllabus. Need a refresher? Watch the short video Peer Review in 3 Minutes.

  • 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 similar topics.
    Scholarly books and articles will have works cited, bibliographies, or footnotes you can mine for additional resources. 

Need help? Ask a librarian.  

Finding articles

Multidisciplinary Databases 

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.

ProQuest offers UVa faculty, staff, and students access to 35 separate databases, covering numerous fields from the hard sciences to social sciences, as well as newspapers, government records, and statistical data.

JSTOR includes older issues of scholarly journals in many disciplines, from the start to 3-5 years ago.

Literature & Film 

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. For articles not available full-text in MLA, click on “Find@UVA” or look up the journal title in Virgo, the library catalog.


America History and Life Covers the history of the United States and Canada from prehistory to present with records from 2,000 English-language journals published worldwide. Includes book reviews. Articles in this database were written between 1964-present. 

Historical Abstracts Find articles about the history of the world from 1450 to the present, published in over 2,000 journals from many countries. Includes book reviews. Does not include articles about the US or Canada. For these see America: History and Life.

Health & Psychology 

Health Source: Consumer Edition Magazines, pamphlets and reference books covering a wide range of health topics. Includes a drug guide and a medical dictionary.

Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition Scholarly journals and some reference books covering nursing and allied health professions.

Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection includes abstracts and full-text of almost 600 journals in psychology and related fields. 

See an A-Z list of all databases

Finding books & articles using Virgo

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 - a regular search will provide tabs for books, articles, and other materials. You can also use the Filter tools on the left to limit your results by author, language, publication date, and more. To find ebooks and other materials available online, set the Availability filter to Online to limit your catalog search results. 

Example Subject terms:

  • Diseases - Philosophy 
  • Diseases in Literature 
  • Body Image -- Psychological Aspects -- Case Studies
  • Communicable Diseases 
  • Mental Disorders 
  • Mental Illness 
  • Public Health

Possible E-Books of Interest