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ARTH A400 Senior Seminar


Choosing appropriate search terms is an important first step in the research process. Take a few moments to brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your topic. Think of similar words that express the same concepts, broader and narrower terms, and important contextual information. 

If you were interested in a piece of art or other object, your list of keywords might include:

  • object type
  • medium or materials
  • individual or cultural group responsible for production
  • site of discovery or use
  • era or time period of creation
  • style

If you were interested in a building or structure your list of keywords might include:

  • name of structure
  • architect or cultural group responsible for production
  • type of building
  • location
  • era or time period of construction
  • style

In addition to generating a list of keywords, take time to think about how those keywords are related. In general, knowing broader terms will help you find books, while narrower terms will be more useful for finding articles.

Expanding or Narrowing a Search

Words such as AND, OR, and NOT are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow a search in a catalog or electronic database.

AND will narrow your search; for example, Avant-Garde AND Collage (must find both terms)

OR will broaden your search; for example, Dada OR Surrealism (must find one of the terms)

NOT will exclude specific items, thereby narrowing your search slightly. For example, German NOT language (must find first term and not second term)

Other Search Tips:

Phrases: “Kurt Schwitters” (must find phrase in that order)

Synonyms/Similar Terms: Collage OR Assemblage OR Sculpture

Wildcards/Truncation: modern* will also find modernism, modernist, etc.