Skip to Main Content

JPNS/CHIN 3200 Advanced Writing Topics on Japanese & Chinese Literatures and Civilizations: Searching

Searching as Strategic Exploration

  • Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative
  • searching requires mental flexibility to pursue alternative avenues as new understanding develops
  • Constantly design and refine needs and search strategies as necessary, based on search results

Search Strategies

Keyword Search

A keyword search looks for words anywhere in the record (title, author, subject, abstract, etc). 

Keyword searches often yield too many or too few results, or too many irrelevant results.

To create a precise search strategy

  • use Search Limiters


Narrow your search

Apples AND Oranges


Expand your search

Apples OR Oranges


Remove results

Fruit NOT Apples

" ... "

Search a phrase

"Political Science"


Truncate a word

Politic* - Politic, Politics, Political, Politician, Politicians

  • use distinctive keywords, avoiding insignificant words


Subject Search

In library catalogs and databases, items are assigned subject headings (or descriptors) to describe the content of the item. Using subject search ensures that all items about the same topic can all be accessed with one search term. Search results are usually very relevant to the topic.

However, subject headings are a set of pre-defined terms or phrases, known as controlled vocabulary. You must know the exact controlled vocabulary term or phrase.

Find the subject heading:

  • locate an item in the catalog or database, and click on its subject heading to view more.
  • look to see if your catalog or database has a thesaurus that you can browse to find the subject heading that best match your topic.

Varying Your Keywords to Produce New Search Results and Find more Sources

The words you use to search for a topic can have a big effect on your Search Results

Example 1: quotation marks

  • Fruit Chan
  • vs
  • "Fruit Chan"

If you search without quotes. You will find information about the director, but you will also see articles by scientists in the field of biology.

If you search with quotes, you will notice the biology related materials disappear, and you get entirely new resources for your research.

Example 2: Synonyms

In doing a search for Made in Hong Kong, it's helpful to add another keyword like movie. As the phrase "Made in Hong Kong" can refer to many different things. Compare these three results:

Each search will produce similar but different results, exposing new possible sources.

Example 3:

Combining Examples One and Two, you can create more variation in your search results:


Profile Photo
Xiang Li
(303) 492-7454