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Modern & Classical Languages & Literatures

Provide resources for research on modern and classical languages and literatures.

Choosing a Topic

Before you start, take time to determine what your research topic(s) will be. It is alright if your topic shifts or changes a little over time, but it is helpful to have some idea of what you are looking for before you start searching. When selecting a topic, keep in mind:

  • Your assignment or course requirements
  • The topics that interest you most
  • Whether there will be adequate resources to support your project


Once you know what your topic is, compile a list of potential search terms (keywords) related to the topic. Are there any important works, people, places, or events associated with your topic? Does your topic relate to a specific time period? A specific literary technique, school of thought or intellectual movement? A famous work? Consider also if there are any synonyms or alternate terms for each keyword.

For example, if we were interested in conducting research on Don Quixote, we might generate a list including the following keywords:

  • Don Quixote (a famous work)
  • The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha (another means of referring to a famous work)
  • Miguel de Cervantes (an important person)
  • Spanish Golden Age (a specific time period)
  • Realism, metatheatre, intertextuality (literary techniques)

Finally, keep in mind the language you are working with, how that language has changed over time, and any relevant translation or transliteration considerations that might affect your research. If you are conducting research in English that pertains to another language, consider the various ways your search terms might be translated or transliterated. For example, the first name of Մխիթար Գոշ, late 12th/early 13th century Armenian scholar and writer, could be transliterated many ways, including Mkhit’ar, Mkhitar, Mxit’ar, and Mxitar. Regarding translation, the title of Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu has been translated both as Remembrance of Things Past and In Search of Lost Time.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand or narrow a search within a database to locate relevant information.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

women or females

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain anyof the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

women and media

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.


Phrase Searches, Truncation, and Wildcards

Phrase searches (" ") can help narrow your search by telling the search engine to look for phrases instead of individual words. For example, the words ClassicalKorean, and literature could all be keywords on their own. If we entered Classical Korean literature into a search bar, then our search might yield results that include the words ClassicalKorean, and/or literature on their own but that do not refer specifically to Classical Korean literature. By enclosing our keywords in quotation marks (" ") as "Classical Korean literature" we can ensure that we are searching for the phrase and not the individual words.

Truncation (*) can help expand your search to include variations in word endings. To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol* at the end of the word. The database will return results that include any ending of that root word. For example:

  • Ital* = Italy, Italian, Italians, Italia, Italiana
  • Poe* = poem, poems, poet, poetical, poetry
  • Chican* = Chicano, Chicanos, Chicana, Chicana/o, Chicanx

Similar to truncation, Wildcards (?) substitute a symbol for a letter or letters in the middle of a word. This is useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning. For example:

  • Wom?n = Woman, women, womyn, womxn
  • Col?r = color, colour

*Truncation and wildcard symbols can vary by database and may include *, !, ?, or #

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