At the end of this session, you should be able to:
(Illustration by Augustus Burnham Shute, 1891, for an edition of Moby Dick. Wikimedia Commons.)
Books on Reserve
These books are on reserve for your class on the Course Reserves rolling bookcart near the grandfather clock in the US Library.
Please follow the rules so everyone has access:
• always check out books using the reserve slip, & LEAVE THE SLIP on the bookshelf
• borrow only by the block, or at the end of the school day for overnight loans
• return promptly by 8:30am the next school day
Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases relevant to your topic, and include synonyms. This is an essential step you should never skip. Think about synonyms for your keywords and phrases.
Use quotation marks for exact phrases:
Wild cards find all versions of a word when added after the word's root:
Gather some synonyms
Think of synonyms for your search terms. If you're examining Ahab's mania, make a list of associated terms, including modern contexts. Ex: mania, madness, "manic depressive," "mental health," sanity, insanity, etc.
Start with a general search, and narrow it down as you look through your results.
|JSTOR search terms||# of results|
|"moby-dick"||17,501 results (oh, no!)|
|"moby dick" melville||9,226|
|moby dick" melville omniscien* narrator prophecy||120+|
|moby dick" melville omniscien* narrat* prophecy (and choose Content I can Access, and Language: English to further trim the results)||26 (now that's more like it!)|
Read abstracts when they are available. These brief summaries of articles will save you time. Note: JSTOR does not provide abstracts for most of its articles. Here is an example of a rare abstract from JSTOR (albeit on a different literary topic):
Anatomy of a JSTOR Search
Be sure to choose "Advanced Search," and consider narrowing your results to articles in English, and content you can access.
Credentialing Your Sources
When reading JSTOR articles, this is an easier process. There are specific places to look for information on an author's academic affiliation with a college or university. Sometimes it's at the top of the page, underneath the author's name.
At other times, it's after the body of the article, before the Notes or Works Cited sections.
These are sometimes the hardest to find, as quality is all over the map.
Credentialing your author to find out what they know is critical. Have you found an essay written by a high school student? Is it a master's degree thesis? Or, is this an article written by a highly experienced college professor who is an expert on the topic?
Start with an Advanced Google Search
Don't waste your time with casual, sloppy searches. Be surgically precise. Instead of 4 million results, you might be lucky and get a few hundred! Nonetheless, using what you've learned about search skills will save you time.