ANTH/SOCL 345 Ethnographic Methods

Searching for context articles

By now in your college career you have probably looked up books, and searched for articles using keywords. Now you are moving up a level, one that requires skill and practice.  Do not hesitate to consult with classmates, your professor or your librarian as you go along.

The skills:

  • Read closely and repeatedly: scour your ethnography to sort out main concepts and theories
  • Read the reference lists: your authors do you a huge favor by citing the sources of their information and ideas, so take advantage of this by pulling likely material from their reference lists.
  • Make lists of words: on identifying a concept, brainstorm and use thesauri to list related terms or categories (for example: health, illness, disease, wellness, vigor, vitality, blood, etc).
  • Experiment: consider how an ethnographic research article might address a concept (for example, if your concept is related to the idea that rats are dirty, maybe search for articles related to thinking about rodents; and then search separately for articles about the idea of filth, dirt, contamination, pollution, germs, etc.). Try out some searches, discover terms and approaches and use that information to adjust your searches.

The guide below offers instruction on how to find a source when you know the citation (for example, from the reference list of your ethnography):

Locate the pre-approved journals:

If your professor has pre-approved articles in several core anthropology journals, there are several ways to search within them.  

One way is to locate a database in which the journal is available as full text.  BEWARE however, that most databases (and this includes JSTOR) do not contain the full run of all issues and articles in a journal.  To locate the database, use the Journal Title search, and click through to the database. Make sure the database search is limited to searching only in that journal.

Another way is to use the AdvancedSearch option in the Library's main search tool, Esearch:

  1. In the first row, click on "All fields" and change it to Periodical Title and in the box type, ["american anthropologist" OR "american ethnologist" OR "cultural anthropology"]
  2. In the second row, type in keywords, such as (disease OR illness)
  3. In the search results screen, look on the left column, and under Content Type click Journal Article to avoid book reviews, editorials, etc.

Keywords for searching

Generating Keywords When Exploring a Topic

To explore what has been published on a topic, you will need to discover what words authors have used in titles and keywords, and what words databases have used when tagging or assigning subject headings to articles. 

This video explains the difference between keywords and subject headings. 

Remember, there is almost never one perfect search.  Keep trying different combinations of terms to explore what is available.  Notice how many results you are getting, and whether the results seem to be relevant. 

As you search, use your growing knowledge about what is published to narrow and refine your questions. 

When you find a highly relevant article, look closely at the subject terms and the keywords in title and abstract in order to find similar articles.

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