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California Studies

This is a guide developed to help students working on California research topics

Brainstorming Keywords

Before you begin your search, compile a list of potential search terms (keywords) related to your topic.
These search terms may come from your class readings, topic lists, or  other sources that discuss the subject your are researching.  For example:

  • historians such as George Mosse or Ian Kershaw
  • schools of historiography such as: The Annales School, cultural history or psychohistory
  • time periods such as: American Civil War, French Revolution, The Second Great Awakening
  • works such as: Magna Carta or Magna Carta Libertatum
  • other history terms such as: revisionism, histoire des mentalités

Using Boolean Operators

Keywords can be combined with other keywords using the AND operator to narrow your topic.  For example:

  • California AND Gold Rush
  • Hollywood AND McCarthyism
  • immigration AND "Chinese Exclusion Act" AND San Francisco

Keywords can be combined with synonyms using OR to broaden your search. For example:

  • Los Angeles OR "City of Angels"
  • California OR "bear republic"

Search Tips - Truncation & Wildcards


Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.

  • To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
  • The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.
  • Examples: 
    histor* = history, historian, historicity, historicism, historical, historiography
    nation* = nation, nations, nationhood, nationalism
  • Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #



Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.

  • This is useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning.
  • Examples: 
    wom!n = woman, women
    colo?r = color, colour

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