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Film Studies Research Guide

Background Information & Books

Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge of it. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

Using Boolean Logic to Search

Boolean Logic is a way to link together keywords in a search tool so that we can control the types of results we get from a catalog, search engine, or database.


AND - Combines keywords so that results contain both or all keywords.

For example: Burgers AND fries, or Environment AND Fracking AND Water

OR - Indicates that you will take either or any of your keywords

For example: Fracking OR "hydraulic fracturing" OR "horizontal drilling"

NOT - Indicates that you want a keyword excluded from your search.

For example: Jaguars NOT Cars

Tips: Put phrases in quotation marks (e.g.: "soap opera") to get an exact match. Use parentheses to isolate synonyms from other concepts you want to combine them with. See the help menu of a search tool for tips specific to the tool.

Boolean AND OR NOT


Search Statements combine keywords with some or all of the above operators to tell the search tool exactly what to do. If you think of each of your key ideas from your research question as a concept, you can then brainstorm different ways of saying each concept. In this example, the concept of "woman" can be represented by various words. Try to think of synonyms or closely related words for each of your concepts. It is useful to group synonyms together with the 'OR' operator in parentheses to tell the search tool to look for any of those words before combining them with the others. Here's a sample search:

(Women OR Woman OR Female) AND Sports AND "Pay Gap"

This will return results that include the words women, sports, and "pay gap"; woman, sports, and "pay gap"; or female, sports, and "pay gap." Any result that has at least one of the words from the parenthesis and both of the other two concepts will most likely help you answer your research question!

Using the parentheses is useful in a single search box, but if you use the Advanced Search Screen (see below), you can keep separate concepts to separate boxes. Be sure to keep all synonyms or related words in the same horizontal line.

Advanced Search Screen