I was reviewing a list of new book records added to the catalogue recently and came across this title: Women and capital punishment in the United States : an analytical history. It made me wonder: what kind of coverage do we have about women and capital punishment in Canada? So I thought I would check it out. Here is how I did it; how would you approach it?
My first term is women, but I also want to include alternate ways of naming female human beings, so I added girls and females. My concept became:
wom*n OR girl* OR fem*
Remember that the * allows you to replace any number of characters, to capture a family of words which reduces the amount that you have to type. wom*n stands for woman, women, or womyn; girl* stands for girl, girls, girlhood… and fem* stands for female, females, feminine… (and in fact you might want to narrow that term to female*, but I didn’t this time around).
I want capital punishment to be searched as a phrase, so I put it in quotation marks:
and I captured the notion of Canadian-ness by using the term
When you have alternate choices for terms within your concept (as I did for women), tell the database so by using the operator OR to join these terms together. This will broaden the search and allow for different expressions of your concept. If you have more than one term in your concept, place the concept in round brackets so that the database knows that it is a concept. Actually, you can place the concept in round brackets anyway.
When you want to require more than one concept to appear in your search results, join the concepts using the operator AND. This tells the database that there is no choice here (it narrows the search). So I searched the catalogue for
(wom*n OR girl* OR fem*) AND (“capital punishment”) AND (Canad*)
I found these:
- Uncertain justice: Canadian women and capital punishment 1754-1953
- Westward bound : sex, violence, the law , and the making of a settler society
- Women and capital punishment in America, 1840-1899 : death sentences and executions in the United States and Canada
This is a good start. The subject headings give me an indication of the themes in these books, as well as pointing to related materials.
If I were looking for journal articles, I would check out CBCA Complete, and America: History and Life, but of course you can also use Summon for this kind of search, too. The kind of search I developed for the catalogue will work in most databases, but I may find different subject headings in the results depending on the database where I am doing the searching. Where else would you try? Law? Government Information? Google Scholar? Why would you search these places? How would you find out about other potential searching places?
You can try this kind of approach with any topic. Searches begin anywhere (in my case, with a list of books on a wide variety of topics) and end anywhere. There is no wrong way to do research, so get out there and try your own. Enjoy the journey!