Smart Searching for Students of Slavic

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In this tutorial, you will discover the benefits and pitfalls of relying on fulltext searching, and learn some strategies to identify and best utilize the functionality electronic databases offer.

Use the arrows below to navigate through the tutorial.

Using the page to your right, select JSTOR.

You may be prompted to enter your UA NetID and password.

You are now in JSTOR

Getting to Know JSTOR

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JSTOR is a database that contains the fully searchable, fulltext runs of hundreds of scholarly journals across a number of disciplines. Content from journals in JSTOR begins with the first issue, and continues up to a moving wall, a few years before the present (so you won't find the most recent content).

1) Scroll down to the list of subjects. Note the breadth of disciplinary content, all of it scholarly.

2) Click on the plus [+] next to "Religion"

What title in this discipline has the earliest date of first publication?

Getting to Know JSTOR

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As you can see, JSTOR is a fabulous resource (and many online indexes point to the content within it).

It is important, however, to understand when to use JSTOR to search for information, and when it is more efficient and effective to use other, more fully indexed information resources.

The Awesomeness of JSTOR

JSTOR can help you find a needle in a haystack.

For example, you can use it to find reference to a specific quote or obscure individual, event, or scholarly work in an enormous corpus of critical, scholarly text.

1) Let's say you want to find where a seminal work called "The typology of the narrator: point of view in fiction" has been referenced. You've just read it and want to use it in your thesis, but are interested to see who else has used it and how they have used it in their critical work.

How many results for this title (searched as a phrase) come up in the fulltext (of ALL content) in JSTOR?

JSTOR's Dirty Little Secret

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While JSTOR can be great for some things, it is pretty awful for others.

JSTOR has a huge amount of content, but it has almost no Subject Indexing or Controlled Vocabulary, which affects the relevance of search results (lots of less than pertinent results to wade through).

JSTOR's Dirty Little Secret

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Let's try some exercises to bring home the importance of Subject Indexing and Controlled Vocabulary when searching on a particular topic.

1) Using the fulltext search functionality in JSTOR, do a search for articles on Crime and Punishment (using quotes [""] so it is searched as a phrase).

Your search should have returned well in excess of 10,000 results.

After browsing through some of the results, how confident are you that this search includes most of the articles in JSTOR that discuss Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment?

JSTOR's Dirty Little Secret

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Ok, so you may have been able to return most of the articles on Crime and Punishment, but how confident are you that every article returned by this search is primarily about Dostoyevsky's novel?

How to Stop Worrying and Love Indexed Searching

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So JSTOR is still pretty cool for a lot of things, but for more precise searching on particular topics or subjects, using an more fully indexed database is invaluable.

1) Let's return to the Library Home Page at: and try the same search in an indexed database.

2) From the Search & Find menu go to Articles & Databases.

3) Select "M" and scroll down and select MLA International Bibliography.

3) You are now in the MLA International Bibliography.

How to Stop Worrying and Love Indexed Searching

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 1) Repeat the search you did in JSTOR for "Crime and Punishment" (as a phrase) in the MLA.

NOTE: While the MLA links to fulltext content, when you search the MLA, you are searching the records for items (author, title, abstract, etc.), not the fulltext. It is also limited to language, linguistics, and literature. As such, you'll likely have fewer results than in JSTOR, but also more relevant results.

2) Scroll down and look at all the ways you can Refine Results by checking one or more boxes on the left hand side.

3) Select "Subject" and then "Show more" to see all the subject terms used to index the set of records you returned. The number next to each box represents the number of records indexed with that Subject.

How to Stop Worrying and Love Indexed Searching

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1) Now close that box and return to the results list.

2) Locate a record that looks as if it is largely about Dostoyevsky's novel and select it.

3) Note the different "fields" (in bold) in the record as well as the linked "access points" (which show as links).

Now click on the drop-down menu next to one of the search boxes at the top of the screen. Of these three, which includes a field that CANNOT be used in an MLA search?

How to Stop Worrying and Love Indexed Searching

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Ok. Now let's try using the full functionality (searching within fields) that indexed searching allows to create a more precise search for works on Crime and Punishment. (i.e., a search that will return results that have the novel as their primary focus)

1) From what you've learned, enter what you think will be the best search terms in one or more of the boxes and select the appropriate field(s) to search within from the "Select a field" drop-down menu(s).

2) Do a Search.

HINT: You may want to use quotes [""] for phrase searching and the Boolean operators AND or OR from the drop-down menus to the left of the search boxes.

How to Stop Worrying and Love Indexed Searching

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How many results did you get?

Ok. Now how confident are you that your search has returned ALL the relevant records and NOTHING BUT the relevant records?

What Does this All Mean?

Congratulations on completing this tutorial!

Let's review a bit about what this means for you in designing search strategies in the future.

1) Not all databases are alike.

It pays to understand their differences before spending too much time searching.

2) Fulltext searching is great - but only to a point.

Don't rely on it for the wrong reasons.

3) Just because a database doesn't have much fulltext content, doesn't mean it isn't valuable.

Indexes often allow for much more precise searches;

Most will also direct you to fulltext content if it is available in another source, or give you the option to request it through ILL or other free document delivery services.

You're Almost Done!

You're almost done! Take the quick quiz on the next screen and send the results to your instructor using the email form that is provided.


Smart Searching Quiz

In order to request an item through ILL, you need to verify the bibliographic information for a 1930s article by Trubetzkoy in Seria B of the Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae that has the word "Vokalsystem" in the title. Which database do you use and why?


In order to request the article through ILL, you need the volume number and pages. What are they?


What is oldest citation in the MLA that uses Evgenii Onegin as a subject heading? (use the available limiters and established controlled vocabulary to be sure you're right!)


Please enter your name and email address to retrieve a copy of your completed quiz.

You can enter multiple email addresses separated by commas. If you are doing this for a class, you may need to enter your instructor's email address also.

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