ENGL 126 Research Writing: Humanities

This research guide is to help students enrolled in English 126 - writing in the humanities.

Identifying Search Terms

Identify Search Terms

Whether you know your exact focus or research question or you are just starting out with a general topic, start with keywords that capture your topic to find information sources. 

What do I know? What do I wish to know?
Start with what you know and add search terms as you research and learn
Name of Work
Theoretical Lens
Ex: The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman




Gender roles




Mental Illness

Connect key ideas to find relevant articles, books, and more.


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Screen capture: advanced search - yellow wallpaper AND gender OR women OR femininity

Download the handout below to brainstorm keywords. Construct possible sample searches from your keywords to try in library databases.

Tip: Think broadly about your topic. Look for criticism about:

  • the larger work if you are writing an interpretation of a short story or poem
  • the author's work as a whole
  • a theme or genre

Using Subject Terms

Try Subject Terms to capture relevant texts on a subject. Subject Terms are the database's "controlled vocabulary" used to pull together resources on a subject. 

  • Note: Subject Terms may exclude some results.
Sample Subject Terms:
  • Literature
  • Criticism
  • LITERATURE -- History & criticism
  • FEMINIST literary criticism  
  • Film Criticism
  • Race in literature
  • Science in literature

Look for relevant Subject Terms as you search with keywords or browse Thesaurus or Subject Terms.

Method 1:
  • Use the "Subject Term" search tool to search for words. In the example below, you can see the words "literary criticism" searched, with a list of related terms appearing below.

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Browse Subject Terms in ASP

Method 2:
  • After searching your topic using keywords, take note of the list of terms that appear under each article following the term: SUBJECTS

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Method 3:
  • Use the menu on the left of a search and select Subject: Thesaurus Term. Click on the option you want, adding just one term at a time.

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snip-menu-subject terms

Video: How to Use Keywords to Form a Research Strategy

Source: "From topic to search results in two minutes! " by Holman Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Learn about strategizing keywords and how databases work when searching keywords.