Digital Lives in Global Spaces

Course Instructor: 

Debra Graham

Situate yourself in the topic first

When starting to research a new topic, it is a good idea to read some background information on the topic first.  This will help you to select good search terms, as well as providing enough context so that you understand what the search results mean and whether or not they support your topic.  Good background sources are disciplinary reference resources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or guides to the literature.  Reference resources are noted on the main page of subject guides.  Consider these titles:

Reference resources also usually provide a starter bibliography.

Start with what you have: your course readings.  Consider the issues discussed.  Book chapters often have "further reading" sections which are bibliographies.  Journal articles have references.  Also consider other papers or books which the authors have written.

Consider your search terms

In the material that you have read, are there any specific words or phrases that are used to describe aspects of your topic?  Make a note of them and consider how these terms go together.  How would you describe your topic, using these labels?

Entering keywords and phrases in Library resources is different from entering search terms in Google.  Join concepts together using AND and OR.

OR allows you to specify synonyms for words, to broaden the saerch by allowing more choice when searching.  For instance, cyberspace OR internet

Join unrelated concepts together using AND, to narrow the search by requiring that both (or all) concepts be in the results that are returned.  For instance: cyberspace AND gender

If an expression involves more than one word, enclose the phrase in double quotation marks.  For instance, "virtual spaces"

Truncation allows you to take advantage of words with related roots.  Fix the beginning of the word, and allow the rest to vary to include words that are related conceptually.  Use an asterisk (*) to indicate what is allowed to vary.  For instance, wom* can stand for woman OR women OR womyn

Tip: When using OR within a concept which is to be combined with another, unrelated concept, be sure to use round brackets so that AND joins concepts properly.  For instance, if you have 2 concepts -- one related to the online activity, and the other related to gender -- you could express these two concepts as:

(cyberspace OR internet) AND (gender OR male* OR fem* OR masc* OR wom*)

Getting Started

Consider starting with books, then moving to journal articles.  Also consider supplementing your paper with other resources such as government information and statistical data, videos, maps, or magazines.  The following pages make suggestions.  Also consider using the unified Summon search on the Library's home page.  Summon searches most (but not all) of the Library's resources.