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Penrose Library

Subject Guide - Environmental Humanities: Search Strategies

Basic Keyword Searches

Most library databases and online catalogs have a specific search language that lets you combine keywords in specific ways for a more efficient search. 

  • Atwood AND Oryx

Use AND to connect words that must appear in a document. This will narrow your search results. Most databases assume you mean AND in between keywords that you type in (in most cases, Atwood Oryx will have the same results as Atwood AND Oryx).

  • nature OR landscape

Use OR if only one word must appear in a document. This will broaden your search results. It is especially effective for synonyms or equivalent concepts (movies OR cinema OR film).

  • Pluto NOT planet

Use NOT to exclude words or terms from a search. Searching for Pluto NOT planet should return works about the Roman god or the Disney dog, rather than the dwarf planet.

(Combining search terms with AND, OR, NOT is called Boolean searching. There is an explanation here.)

  • (Atwood AND Oryx) AND (nature OR landscape)

With nesting, use parentheses to indicate which parts of a complicated search statement go together.

  • ecocritic* 

In the Whitman catalog or MLA database, use an asterisk to truncate a word and allow for different endings. ecocritic* should return results including the words ecocritical and ecocriticism.

  • "nature writing"

In phrase searching, use quotation marks to enclose a phrase or words that must appear together in a document. "climate chage" will give more specific results than the individual words climate and change.

  • (nature OR landscape) AND ecocritic*

You can combine two or more of these techniques to define and limit your search further.


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