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Creative Writing

Designed for creative writing students, this guide takes you through the Library’s resources to improve your research.
Stop Words

Stop words: a, an, are, be, if, in, into, of, on, the, which...these words are excluded and ignored by a database. You can leave them out of any search unless they are necessary. If they are necessary, then you want to put the phrase that includes the stop word(s) within quotation marks to tell the database to include those words in the search. 

Boolean Operators

By using these connectors when employing library searches you will achieve the best results.

  • AND
    • This will narrow searches to include all terms that are connected with AND.
    • Example, "spiritual formation" AND "Fowler" requires both terms be present in the title, abstract, or keywords of a citation.
  • OR
    • This broadens searches to include more options based on search terms.
    • (college OR university) AND "Scripture Engagement" AND ("small groups" OR "discipleship groups")
    • Either the term college OR the term university must be present along with the phrase either "small groups" OR "discipleship groups" in the title, abstract, or keywords assigned to a citation.
  • NOT
    • This excludes a term from a search and thus helps narrow searches results. A search may be found to be too broad or not related to what is being sought. The NOT operator excludes a term from the search results.
    • Example: "Children's ministry" AND (education NOT school)
Finding Subject Terms

Most Databases include a way to search the specific Subject Terms used within that database. Knowing and using the databases own controlled vocabulary will make you the most efficient researcher you can be. When browsing a database for its controlled vocabulary look for a navigational link that says Subjects, Subject Terms, Thesaurus, Index, etc.. The name used may vary but the purpose (a dictionary of the controlled vocabulary) is the same.

Other Searching Tools
  • Add an asterisk (*) to the root of a search term. 
    • When applied to a root of a word, it will search for multiple forms of a word at one time.
      • immigra* = immigrant, immigration
      • polic* = policy, policies
  • Use quotation marks ("") around common or important phrases.
    • Sometimes, a keyword is really a key phrase. Quotation marks will ensure keywords are search for in the exact order desired.
      • "child development" or "climate change"
  • Nesting: ()

    • Nesting allows you to group words and is especially useful when combining Boolean Operators in a search query.  Nesting tells the database to look at those combinations first - must as you do numerical calculations of numbers in parentheses first.  (i.e., (1+2) x 3=9 versus 1 + (2x3)=7)
      • Example: censorship AND (books OR films)
      • Example: elections AND (Democrats OR Republicans)
  • Add additional search terms.
    • If too many results (>200) are being found, add additional keywords or search terms.
  • Use limit/refine options
    • Results can be narrowed by limiting the date range, or to scholarly/academic journals (when needed), or to Full Text (when immediate access is desired without using Interlibrary Loan), or Source Type (journal article, newspaper, magazine, etc.). Some limits include:
      • Language
      • Publication type
      • Date of publication
      • Peer-reviewed/Scholarly works
      • Source (Such as a journal title)
      • Full text
  • Find the permalink
    • To avoid losing access to articles (even leaving a browser open to a particular article can be lost after a few hours!), look at the Detailed Record of an item for the permalink or persistent link. Do not use the link in the address bar!
    • The permalink will give permanent access to the citation or article. Save it! Email it! Copy it into a Word doc!