Skip to main content

JPN 320: Introduction to Japanese Culture: Search Strategies

Introduction to Japanese Culture, Pre-Modern to 1868. Fall 2012.

Identifying Keywords

Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be found easily by scanning:

  • Your initial research questions,
  • Encyclopedia and other articles used when conducting background research,
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles.

If you are still struggling, then try these suggestions:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture.
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.

Effective Search Strategies

The easiest way to search for information electronically is to enter a couple of keywords into the search box of the resource and see what type of results you get. However, this strategy will often result in too few, too many, or irrelevant results.

In order to retrieve the most relevant results, try using a combination of keywords. You may also want to try truncation symbols.

Truncation/Wildcard Symbols

Truncation or wildcard symbols can broaden your search and allow you to look for word variations. For example, searching sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc. 

Note: The truncation symbol varies depending on the electronic resource you are searching. For more information, consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages.

Find Background Information

Background research serves many purposes.

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic: terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.

Is Your Topic Too Narrow?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by

  • Exploring related issues.
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic.
  • Expanding the
    • time period covered;
    • population considered;
    • geographic area discussed.

Is Your Topic Too Broad?

If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it by:

  • Time period
  • Geographic location -- London
  • Population -- age, race, gender, nationality or other group.
  • Smaller piece of the topic

    • Genre -- motets (music)
    • Event -- Hundred Years' War
    • Aspect -- education, health, religion