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AN380: Gender and Sexuality in Fairy Tales (Jorgenson): Search Strategies

This LibGuide is an academic resource for you to start your research process in Gender and Sexuality in Fairy Tales.

Natural Vocabulary

Many indexes, databases, websites, etc. can be searched using natural language, or uncontrolled vocabulary.  Try various combinations (e.g., folk tales and folktales); other names for the tale (e.g., Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose) or the tale name in another language Cinderella/Cenerentola/ Aschenputtel/etc.).   Also try terms like Tale Type 327, AT Type 327, ATU Type 327.  This strategy can bring up sources you might not find otherwise, but you must also evaluate the sources more closely in most cases.  Using a strategy of controlled and uncontrolled vocabulary is a good combination.  Regardless of which you’re using, as you search, keep track of which search terms return you the most relevant hits, and the most academically reliable hits.  A research log is a great way to do this. 

Videos on Searching

Goldilocks Dilemma

Feeling a little overwhelmed by your search?Bike overloaded with packages

Information overload is a real thing!


If you are getting back too many results:

  • Be more specific with your search terms
    • Select narrower, more specific search terms
    • Add additional terms and connect with AND
    • Use quotation marks with phrases
    • Use subject headings instead of keywords
  • Utilize the search limiters
    • Search within the Abstract or Title fields specifically
    • Limit to a certain date range
    • Limit to certain types of publications
  • Search within a more narrow database
    • Instead of searching in the very large, multidisciplinary databases, search in a smaller subject-specific one

Heavy Overload / baskets on a moto by dee_. Used underCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Frustrated by a lack of relevant search results?Frustrated guy

If your search doesn't return results, it's (normally) because you are searching:

  • With problematic terms
  • In the wrong place
  • For something that doesn't exist

If you are not getting back enough results:

  • Work with your search terms
    • Is everything spelled correctly?
    • Is there an alternative term that would work (examples: automobile instead of car or middle school instead of junior high)
    • Select terms that are more broad (example: Midwest instead of Indiana).  
    • If you had multiple search terms, try reducing the number of terms. If you had been connecting terms with AND, try using OR instead.
    • Try using a truncation symbol to give the search flexibility
  • Remove search limiters
  • Make sure you are searching in a appropriate place
    • Use the About or Help feature to learn more about the database. Make sure the subject and coverage are appropriate for your search.
    • Try searching in a large, multidisciplinary database like Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, or Google Scholar.
  • Take a break and try again later. 
  • If you are still struggling, ask a librarian!  

Frustration (was: threesixtyfive I day 244) by Sybren Stuvel. Used underCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Controlled Vocabulary

The terms below come from the Library of Congress Subject Headings list (LCSH), the same list libraries use to catalog books, etc.  When you get into a new index or database, check to see if it uses controlled vocabulary, and if so, find the terms that best fit your needs.  Controlled vocabulary, like LCSH, can provide easy access to useful sources, and many are academically solid since they tend to be materials purchased by libraries.  LCSH do not contain headings for all the fairy tales or characters you will want to research, so be aware of that.  When you find books or articles using LCSH, select an item (e.g. a book); then click on “description.”  This will bring up all the LCSH used for that item.  If you see a LCSH that looks useful, click on it and it will take you to all items that use that LCSH.  Not all academic databases use LCSH, so write down the terms you find.  Here are a few examples of Library of Congress Subject Headings; I can help you find more in your specific areas of research:

  • Fairy tales – Film adaptations

  • Fairy tales—Television adaptations

  • Fairy tales – [Country name]  (example: Fairy Tales—Ireland)

  • Fairy tales – Classification

  • Psychoanalysis and fairy tales

  • Psychoanalysis and folklore

  • Symbolism in fairy tales

  • Symbolism in folklore

  • Fairy tales in literature

  • Fairies – [Country name]

  • Fairies in literature

  • Tales – [Country name]

  • Fantasy fiction, American—History and criticism

  • Fantasy fiction, English – History and criticism

  • Fantasy films 

  • Fantasy fiction

  • Fantasy literature, English – History and criticism

  • Folklore – [Country name]

  • [Country name] –Folklore

  • Folk literature

  • Children’s literature – History and criticism

  • Children’s stories

  • Literature and folklore – [Country name] – History

  • Oral tradition -- [Country name]

  • Magic realism (Literature)

  • Women and literature -- [Country name]

There are subject headings for some kinds of magical beings (examples below):

  • Fairies
  • Elves
  • Trolls
  • Changelings

There are subject headings for some characters (examples below):

  • Cinderella (Legendary character)
  • Hua, Mulan (Legendary character)
  • Pied Piper of Hamlin (Legendary character)
  • Babe Yaga (Legendary character)

There are subject headings for some tales (examples below):

  • Sleeping Beauty (Tale)—[Country name]
  • Sleeping Beauty (Tale) in literature—[Country name]
  • Snow White (Tale)—[Country name]
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