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NASX 280: Research Theories and Methods: Home

Welcome

Welcome to the library guide for Native American Studies 280!

Try These Databases First

Use your NetID and password to access library databases off campus.

Using Keywords in Research

Knowing the right keywords to search will help you start your search off right. Often, when students aren't finding good information - or any information at all about a topic - it is because they aren't using the correct keywords.

The best thing you can do before ever getting into a database is to think about the keywords that will best represent your topic. Write down your thesis statement and pull out the major terms in it. Then, think of as many different ways as you can to say those key terms. For example:

American Indians have diverse spiritual and religious traditions

Some keywords in this sentence are: "American Indians," spiritual, religious, and traditions. However, searching for these terms will get you only a fraction of the material that is out there, because if a different keyword is used to express the same concept you need to search for that keyword as well. So, other keywords that would be useful to use when researching this thesis topic would be: "Native American," tribal, spirituality, ritual, cosmology, practices, ceremonies, etc. You may also broaden or narrow the search by searching for a specific tribe, a specific belief, or a specific tradition - so your keywords might include Blackfeet or peyote or "Ghost Dance."

Tips for Using Keywords

*     Remember that you can combine keywords using the search limiters AND, OR, and NOT. These will narrow or expand your search.

*     Use quotation marks around words that make a phrase. So, search for "Native American" rather than Native American or Native AND American in a database. This will ensure that the database knows that you want the phrase "Native American" and not every article with the word Native and the word American in it!

*     Tailor your keywords to the database. Not all databases will pick up all keywords. Get your list of keywords and plug them into various databases to see whether or not they are useful for you in that database. If you go into a database with keywords and don't find anything, don't get discouraged. Take your words to a different database and see what you find there.

*     Remember in historical research that some databases, particularly those that search historical primary documents like newspapers and magazines, may use keywords that are outdated or distasteful to contemporary researchers. For example, searching for "African American" in some newspaper databases will not turn up much material, but searching for "Negro" will, simply because of the language that was used in the article.

*     Remember also that spelling and word usage changes over time. A search for "Navajo" may miss articles that use the spelling "Navaho." Likewise, when searching for a term like "religion" consider using other words such as "cosmology", "ritual", or "myth" -- these words may uncover some great material that you might miss by searching only for one term.

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