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English: Search Strategies

Subject guide for English majors

Research Tricks to Save You Time!

Research Meme

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Tips for Researching about Films

Some movies have titles that are short or made up of generic/commonly used phrases, which can make it hard to locate relevant articles (e.g. AlienUpBring it On). If the movie is adapted from a book or play, you may also have trouble differentiating them.

Here are some tips that will help you make sure you're finding articles about the correct film.

  1. Do a database search for the movie's title and another key identifier (e.g. director's name, production company, "motion picture" or film)
    1. [alien AND "ridley scott"]
    2. [up AND pixar]
    3. ["bring it on" AND film]
  2. Look for an article in your list of results that is definitely about your film—read the abstract and check the subject headings to be sure. The exact subject of this article doesn't matter yet, but it must be about the correct movie.
    1. BIRTH OF A NEW ALIEN. (cover story)
    2. Home Is Where the Heart Is: Pixar's Up.
    3. A Broadway Stop For 'Bring It On'.
  3. In the article description, find the correct subject heading related to your movie. Click on the hyperlinked subject term to start a new search.
    1. DE "ALIEN (Film)" or DE "ALIEN (Motion Picture)"
    2. DE "UP (Film)" or DE "UP (Motion Picture)"
    3. DE "Bring It On (Film)" or DE "Bring It On (Motion Picture)"
  4. From this base search—which contains only articles that are about your specified movie—you can start building your complete search query by adding more search terms and narrowing your focus.
    1. DE "ALIEN (Film)" AND femin*
    2. DE "UP (Film)" AND aging
    3. DE "Bring It On (Film)" AND sports

Basic Search Strategies


Use the database’s built-in limiting features - usually on the left side of the screen - to limit by material type, date, full-text, scholarly, etc.

1. Search by keywords - most important words only

2. Use quotation marks to search for phrases - "The Virgin Suicides"

3. Use Boolean searching to link keywords and phrases 

  • AND - "The Virgin Suicides" AND gender
  • OR - film OR motion picture
  • NOT - "Alfred Hitchcock" NOT Vertigo

4. Consider truncation - type creat* for create, creating, creators, creation, creatures, etc.

Try using the database’s subject terms - usually listed above the article abstract.

screen shot of article

Boolean Operators in Action: AND

Boolean Operators in Action: OR

Boolean Operators in Action: NOT