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SPAN 3120 Advanced Spanish Grammar (Brown, Becher, and Raymond): Find

The Importance of Keywords

Keywords are also called search terms. They are the words we enter into the search box that target the information we seek. What you put into the search box is very important because if you use an incorrect term, you may be missing out on scholarship and information on your topic. The best way to avoid this issue is to try out various keywords and their synonyms. 

Hint: Keep track in a spreadsheet or research journal so that you know which keywords worked well and which didn't. You can also track the databases that you look in so that you are sure to check various places.

You can brainstorm your keywords in whatever way works best for you, but here's how I do it:

Keyword 1 - Synonym 1 OR Synonym 2 OR Synonym 3

For example: Ladino - "Judeao-Spanish" OR "Judeo-Spanish" OR "Ladino language"

When it comes time to search, you can swap your synonyms in and out to see what works best. You can also create complex search logic using multiple synonyms at the same time, connecting them with OR:

For example: (Ladino OR "Judeao-Spanish" OR "Judeo-Spanish") AND morphology

The above example will find you all things about Morphology AND Ladino, plus all things about morphology AND  "Judeao-Spanish," plus all things about morphology AND "Judeo-Spanish." However, if you prefer, you can do those three searches separately. You can use this Boolean-style search in internet search engines (Google), library catalogs (OneSearch, Chinook), and databases (MLA, JSTOR, etc.). 

Dialect Zone

The dialect zone you choose to work with for this project can also be a keyword. Be sure to search for it in both English and Spanish and also try alternate spellings if needed.

Map of Dialects of Castilian in Spain

Image by Martorell [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Searching Techniques

Finding materials in library databases, catalogs, or online requires similar skills. Below, I’ll explain two approaches. I’ll also include some additional tips and tricks:

1.    Finding something you know the name of – (known search)
  • If you know what you’re looking for, one of the easiest ways to find it is through phrase searching. Use quotation marks around a proper name or phrase to find an exact match: “to be or not to be” or “Andalusian Dog.” Use this technique everywhere from Chinook to Google to library databases.
  • If you’re in a database or the catalog (OneSearch or Chinook), you can do a combined title and author search from the Advanced Search Screen. Adding as many fields (title, author, publication date) as you know will help you find your item faster. This is called field searching.

OneSearch Advanced Search Screen with Title and Author search fields in use

2.   Finding an unknown item – (unknown search)
  • Enter some keywords related to your topic in the search box. For example, Salvador Dali surrealism. You should get some results. In some databases or search engines, you may have to add the connector ‘AND’ in between your keywords: Salvador AND Dali AND Surrealism (or, turn the first two into a phrase: “Salvador Dali” AND surrealism). This is called Boolean searching. ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’ are other Boolean connectors and operators, and usually work best when in capital letters. Here's what that looks like in an Advanced Search Screen:

OneSearch Advanced Search screen showing keywords in multiple search boxes connected with AND

  • If you’re not getting results, or you’re not getting the ones you want, try searching for some information in Google or Wikipedia to get different keywords to try. For example, Salvador Dali's experimental film. A natural-language search like that will produce results that will include information about his surrealist film “Un Chien Andalou” or “An Andalusian Dog” from 1929.
Tips & Tricks
  • Even Google has some advanced search features, including Boolean operators
  • The library catalog, Chinook, and OneSearch have lots of options both on the Advanced Search screen, and on the filters that you can use to narrow your search after the fact
  • Many databases (EBSCO, ProQuest, JSTOR, etc.) will let you use a wildcard symbol. The symbol * can be added onto the root of a word, comput* to help you locate all variations of that word: computer, computers, computing, computational… Each database may have its own symbols(# or ?), so be sure to look for a Help Menu or Search Tips
  • When in doubt, you can always contact your Subject Librarian

Articles Databases and Other Scholarly Sources

Databases are subscription-bases resources that University Libraries makes available to you. They typically include articles from journals related to a specific academic discipline or your major area of study. Each database looks different, but they often work in similar ways. Please review the information above in the "Searching Techniques" box to learn how to use these resources. You can also look for a help menu or "About" page within each database, or contact your Subject Librarian.

Note: Databases often contain the full text of articles, but sometimes only show you a citation to things. Use the Find it at CU link to locate the full text in another subscription database or request the article at no cost to you through Interlibrary Loan.

Sample Search

If you were interested in loísmo in usage in the Spanish language, you might try a search like loísmo AND Spanish, or loísmo AND español. You could also combine the searches into loísmo AND (Spanish OR español) and get the results of the first two searches in one results list! To do this, use the Boolean OR between your synonyms and put them in parentheses, or use the advanced search screen and put your synonyms in the same box:

Advanced Search page of Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts showing Boolean search

Online Resources for Descriptive (Actual) Usage

There are billions of examples of actual Spanish usage on the web, but it can be tricky to harness the power of the web for your purposes. Below are a few websites to get you started, along with brief descriptions.

Finding the Full Text of an Article in a Database

This graphic explains the process for using "Find it at CU," available in most databases and Google Scholar, to locate the full text of an article.

Text alternative for web accessibility - infographic

Finding the full-text of an article

Combine Search Words

AND  link words by AND to search for all words in the same resource

OR  link words by OR to search for one word or another (instead of both/all words)

NOT  to eliminate results with a certain term

“Quotations” – add quotations to a group of two or more words to search for the exact phrase 

Searching University Libraries Collections

OneSearch is the main search box you'll find on the library home page. It searches our library catalog, Chinook, plus a whole bunch of other great resources including article databases. If you know you need a book or journal, or to find out if we have a subscription, you can just use Chinook Classic.

Chinook has its own tips and search techniques. Check out the link below to learn how to use it like a pro!

Check Out Books

BuffonecardTake your BuffOne Card or photo ID to the circulation desk or a self-check out station. 

Undergraduates: 28 day loan period; up to 300 items

Graduates/ Faculty/ Staff: 180 day loan period; up to 300 items

Prospector vs. InterLibrary Loan (ILLiad)

Prospector and Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad) login buttons.

Use Prospector to request physical materials from other Colorado libraries at no cost to you! Prospector is generally the quickest way (3-5 business days) to get materials not available at CU-Boulder. 

Use Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad) to request electronic materials from other libraries. You can also request physical materials like books that are not available at CU or in Colorado through Prospector.