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CHIN 5010 Sinological Methods: Search Strategies

OneSearch, Library Catalog, or Specific Databases?

Pinyin or Characters?

Basic rules of Chinese Romanization used in North America library system:

  1. The pinyin system has been used as the standard in the U.S. libraries for Romanization of Chinese characters.
  2. Standard Chinese national pronunciation is used as the basis for creating the Latin script reading of a character.
  3. Words of non-Chinese origin are also Romanized according to pinyin principles, even though normalized Romanization are known or the word comes from a Latin script language. example: Haerbin, Zhijiage
  4. In general, separate the Romanization of each Chinese character with a space.example: Ming Qing xiao shuo bi jiao yan jiu.
  5. Personal names: Join together the syllables associated with multi-character names including surnames, given names, Buddhist names, courtesy names etc. example: sima xiangru; Huineng
  6. Name of Countries: Connect syllables according to the practice followed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. example: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo; Zhonghua Minguo

ALA-LC Romanization Tables -- Chinese

Conducting Effective Search

Keyword Search

A keyword search looks for words anywhere in the record (title, author, subject, abstract, etc). Keyword searches are a good substitute for a subject search when you do not know the standard subject heading. Keyword may also be used as a substitute for a title or author search when you have incomplete title or author information.

However, 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
  • restrict a search to a specific index or field in the catalog record

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 usally 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.