Literature Research Guide

Locating Background Information:

1. Locating Background Information:
At the beginning of a research project, consult specialized dictionaries or encyclopedias to obtain an overview of a concept, a school of thought, a specific work or a particular author's contribution to the field.

Identifying Keywords:

2. Identifying Keywords:

  • After surveying the topic, form a concise search question. An example is:
  • How is symbolism used in Moby Dick?

  • From this search question identify the main concepts of the search, in this case, symbolism and Moby Dick.
  • Brainstorm a list of keyword synonyms for each of these two concepts. Use the keywords throughout the search to find variant terms used to describe the main concepts. Different indexes may use different terms to categorize the same concept. (As the search progresses, add new keywords to the list and discard those found inappropriate.) The chart below shows sample lists of keyword synonyms for finding information on the use of symbolism in Moby Dick:

    Concept 1: Symbolism

    Concept 2: Moby Dick


    Moby Dick


    The Whale


    Herman Melville

Last Update: 03 Aug 20:33