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Library Research Skills: Searching as Strategic Exploration

Library Research Skills

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Mind Map


Use a mind map to:

  • Describe what you have already discovered about your topic in your preliminary search.
  • To identify gaps in your research
  • Plan your literature search
  • Identify focused search terms

Create a  mind map on paper or using online tools like Exam Time

Refine your research topic:


  • Revisit The Map (pg. 28-29) and using the steps in identifying a topic, redefine the process and aim of your research question

  • Make the necessary connections for your literature search

Create a repository of search terms from your preliminary research


  • Bibliographic details of articles, chapters in books, books, etc
  • Names of relevant scholars, authors and translators

Antonopoulou, Eleni. 2002. “A cognitive approach to literary humour devices: translating Raymond Chandler.” In Translating humour, Jeroen Vandaele (ed.), 195–220. Special issue of The Translator 8 (2). 
Attardo, Salvatore. 1994. Linguistic theories of humor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 
Delabastita, Dirk. 1996. “Introduction.” In Wordplay and Translation: Essays on Punning and Translation, Dirk Delabastita (ed.), 1–22. Special issue of The Translator 2 (2).
Gottlieb, Henrik. 1997. “You got the picture? On the polysemiotics of subtitling wordplay.” In Traductio: essays on punning and translation, Dirk Delabastita (ed.), 207–232. Manchester / Namur: St. Jerome and Presses Universitaires de Namur.  


  • Keywords/synonyms that describe or identify elements of your research question

Source & Target text/mediumThe Yacoubian Building; عمارة يعقوبيان; ʿImārat Yaʿqūbīān; Alaa Al-Aswany; Humphrey T. Davies

General conceptsHumor /humour, parody, wordplay, puns, satire;  modern Egyptian fiction; Modern Egyptian authors; Egypt, 1952 Revolution; Modern Arabic literature; Modern Arabic fiction

Translation Studies' theories and research areas:  Humor and translation; Tymoczko, paradigm specific humor, comical paradigm; Delabastita, wordplay; translations into English; translations from Arabic; cultural untranslatability; linguistic untranslatability; translatability of humor, untranslatability of humor; literary translation


Use search operators to create search strings


Boolean operators

  • AND narrows search and retrieves documents with all keywords in the same document
    • Translation AND humor
  • OR broadens search to include any of the keywords in a search string.
    •  “translatability of humor” OR “untranslatability of humor”
  • NOT limits search by removing an element of the search string from the retrieved documents
    •  “modern Arabic fiction” NOT "modern Egyptian fiction"

Phrase Searching – use quotations marks around a phrase to retrieve documents with the exact phrase (see above)


Search strings for concept searching may include:

“The Yacoubian Building” AND “translatability of humor” OR “untranslatability of humor”

“ʿImārat Yaʿqūbīān” AND humor AND “translations into English”

“Humphrey T. Davies” AND “translatability of humor”

 “Modern Arabic fiction” AND “cultural untranslatability”

“The Yacoubian Building” AND “literary translation”

Discovery Platforms and Individual Research Databases


Research databases overlap in purpose and features, and trying to categorize them is not always necessary. Rather, the modern library seeks to emulate a Google type one-stop search approach. A “discovery platform” where information needs can be met and filtered through the use of a single search box.

  • Modern library catalogues provide information on print sources, and in addition, direct access to e-books and articles in journals, newspapers, image banks, etc.

  • Some academic libraries make their resources visible through web search engines like Google Scholar and on joint library catalogues, for example, WorldCat.

So why identify individual research databases?

  • Translation Studies is a relatively new field with a small footprint.

  • Searching subject-specific or relevant resources is more efficient and effective than filtering large multidisciplinary and multi-format research databases.

  • Library catalogues are not always up to date. Integration of different research databases presents challenges for vendors, publishers and libraries - and takes time.

  • As a specialist, it is important to be able to identify resources specific or relevant to the discipline.


Features of Research Databases

Research databases may be described as:

  • Format specific or mixed 
  • Publisher specific or hosted by a third-party vendor
  • Subject specific or multidisciplinary
  • Full-text, citations/abstracts only, or mixed

See A-Z Databases

Search interfaces vary but generally provide the following features:

  • Basic searches  

    • Keywords, author’s name, article or book titles, etc.

  • Advanced searches

    • Boolean operators  (AND, OR, NOT), phrase searches, etc.

    •  Search within the citation (specific), abstract (relevant) or the full-text (broad search)

    • Search according to publisher, format type, date, language, etc.

  • Provide information about the source

    • How many times cited and by whom

    • Related articles

    • Bibliographic references

  • Provide email and RSS (Rich Site Summary) services

    • Allows you to save a search as an RSS feed or an email alert and have any new items that match your search appear on your desktop, reader or be emailed to you. This can include:

      • Table of contents from new issues of a particular journal

      • New articles on your specific research topic


Find books, DVDs, theses, dissertations, chapters in books, etc.

  • Library catalog

  • e-book Databases

  • Theses & Dissertations resources

  • Audiovisual media resources

    • Not available through CHSS?:
Find journal articles

Muhawi, Ibrahim. “Performance and Translation in the Arabic Metalinguistic Joke.” The Translator 8.2 (2002): 341-66.

  • Search by journal title:
    • Core Journal Titles (A-Z List) & Library Catalogue 

      • Volume, issue no.

  • Search by article title:
    • Library catalogue, e-journal atabases (A-Z List), Google Scholar

  • Search through publisher or host of ejournal

(Use Google to identify publisher, for example - Taylor & Francis publishes The Translator)

  • ​​Publisher or third-party databases (A-Z List)
    • Journal title, volume, issue no.


Complete a literature search form

  • Identify relevant databases for your literature search.

  • Identify keywords to use with each database

    • Simplify searches for subject-specific databases

    • Use Boolean operators and other filters for larger and multidisciplinary research databases

  • Follow individual databases' instructions to refine your searches

  • Utilize services offered: related articles, email and RSS feeds

  • Record references, including call numbers for print sources and download articles

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Information discovery is nonlinear and iterative, requiring the use of a broad range of information sources and flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding is developed. 

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)