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Go to Advanced Search.
If you are researching a novel, story, or poem, enter the full title, surrounded by quotation marks: "The Bluest Eye"
Use quotation marks for other exact phrases: "food justice" "queer theory"
Enter one or two of your search terms from your brainstorm (and be sure to select "AND" from the drop-down menu).
Be sure the drop-down menu "Select an access type" is set to "Content I can access." Click Search.
In the Search Results
Skim article titles, journal titles, and years for sources that look relevant
Click on the first one you like, download or display in your browser
Search for your term using CTRL-F. Skim the passages highlighted and choose a few that look promising. Go back and read the article more closely, locating the main argument and supporting points.
Repeat with other works in the search results.
Topics: In the search results, look at the "Topics" assigned to each article. Do any of these match your terms? Try clicking on one and searching for your novel title for more articles with that label.
Extended searching: Note when the article quotes from another article that might seem useful to you. Find that article in the bibliography and search for it in JSTOR or Google Scholar.
Before you search, try this short brainstorming exercise:
1. Make a list of all the words you can think of associated with your topic. Do this without evaluating what comes up or worrying about relevance, order, or spelling. Just list as many as you can.
What words come to mind when you think about this topic?
What are some synonyms or related terms?
2. Go back through the list and pick out the ten or so best matches--the ones that most closely match your ideas or the assignment.
3. Use these words as search terms. Try searching for two or three at a time, joining them with "OR," or searching for an exact phrase.
4. You can go back and repeat this process as much as necessary.
When you are just starting, try doing this with three or more different topics and see what you find.