Science Fiction, Fantasy & Utopia
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Research Guide:
Useful Subject Headings & Tips for Searching the Indexes

Searching in General | Searching MLA Bibliography | Searching Wilson Humanities | Searching Current Contents Arts & Humanities

Searching in General

Doing research on a particular topic involves several steps.

  1. Defining your topic
  2. Selecting finding aids and indexes that will cover your topic
  3. Searching finding aids and indexes
  4. Retrieving the material

Defining your topic means looking at your assignment or interests, and focusing the topic to one that can be covered in the space and time you have. (Clue: I can't help you with this one! Talk to a colleague, fellow student, or your teacher!)

Finding Journal Articles: The primary English-language database for studies of literature is the Modern Language Association (MLA) Bibliography. However, there are numerous other databases of relevance to the fields of feminist science fiction, fantasy and utopia, including Wilson's Humanities Index, Current Contents Arts and Humanities, and Women's Studies Index. Students in high school may want to check the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature - a very general database - first. These databases are all indexes to journal articles.

Finding Books: To find books, you should check your library's catalog, or use OCLC's WorldCat or Bowker's Books in Print. amazon.com is a pretty good source for basic bibliographic information, as long as you remember that amazon, like Books in Print or any other resource, is not complete and not always accurate.

Finding Internet Resources: To find resources on the Internet, go to an Internet search engine, such as google, Yahoo, Altavista, Excite, or Lycos and follow the instructions for searching.

Contacting an Author: The best way to contact an author is to write them directly or via their agent. You can find this information by searching Contemporary Authors at your library.

Searching indexes, databases, and Internet search engines involves several steps. First, remember your topic, and then try to break it down into its different parts. For instance, if you want to find information on women in post-holocaust worlds, the two major concepst are women and post-holocaust. You will search the databases for those two concepts, and you may need to find other words or phrases that have similar meanings. For instance,
women or girls and post-holocaust or post-nuclear
Note! Sometimes a subject phrase that covers your topic will already be defined. This is a subject heading. For example, women and technology (Wilson) or by women writers (MLA). If so, your search will be most precise if you use that term. But if you need to find more material, feel free to search using both parts of the term separately (i.e., women and technology or women and authors or writers).

Librarians! I have created the beginnings of a baby thesaurus for feminist science fiction, fantasy and utopias / speculative fiction.

To search for a particular author, you will need to know how writers are indexed in a particular database. You may be able to limit to fields -- i.e., search for articles about a particular writer, or search for articles by a particular writer. Searching particular authors will greatly depend on the search software you use (SilverPlatter, Ovid, OCLC FirstSearch, etc.). For best results use a combination of keyword searching and defined field (subject or thesaurus) searching. See your librarian for assistance with your particular databases and search system.

I've listed tips for searching specific databases below.

Retrieving the material is easy. Go to your library. If they don't have the journal or book you need, ask for an interlibrary loan - they can help you get a copy from another library.

Search Tips for Specific Databases

Searching Modern Language Association (MLA) Bibliography

Access to the Database
Check your library to see if they have either the MLA Bibliography in print, or an online subscription. OCLC FirstSearch is one of the ways to access the MLA Bibliography online.

Subject Headings
The subject headings listed below are subject headings used in MLA Bibliography but be warned, these are not always going to pull up what you want. A term used in one database may have a different meaning in another. For instance, sex may be used to mean the verb (as in having sex) or the noun (as in, what sex are you, boy or girl?). In MLA you do not usually need to search for a subject and literature since the entire database is focussed on literature. It is useful to focus on specific types of literature, for instance fantasy fiction or science fiction

as heroine
by feminist writers
by women writers
feminist approach
feminist discourse
oppression of women
radical feminist writers
relationship to feminism
relationship to patriarchy
sex roles
treatment of Amazon
treatment of androgyny
treatment of female body
treatment of feminism
treatment of feminist utopia
treatment of marriage
treatment of sexual equality
treatment of sexuality
treatment of women

fantasy fiction
relationship to utopianism
science fiction
science fiction novel
treatment in science fiction
treatment of feminist utopia
treatment of utopia
utopian science fiction

Searching Wilson Humanities Index

Access to Wilson Humanities Index
Check your library to see if you have access to this in print or online. (In Illinois, it is available through IBIS.)

Searching for Material About Authors
"Named Person" If the article is about an author, they might be indexed here. Try Lastname Firstname Middleinitial (i.e., Le Guin Ursula K). You may want to include a truncation symbol after the first name initial (i.e., Le Guin U$ - specific symbols will vary depending on how you access the database ). Once you've pulled up a few citations with the author in this field, try searching again with the author's name exactly as it is recorded in the database (i.e., Le-Guin-Ursula-K-1929- ) Combine your sets with OR.

Searching for Material About Specific Works
In the "Named person" field you will also find specific works listed, without leading articles such as "the" or "an", i.e., Works Dispossessed .

Searching for Material by Subject
In the subject field you will find subject headings. Individual databases may use a particular thesaurus, or they may simply create subject headings based on the author abstracts or the headings provided by the journal (if any). See your librarian for assistance in determining if a particular database has a thesaurus, and if there is a print version you can browse.

The subject headings listed below are subject headings used in Wilson, but be warned, these are not always going to pull up what you want. For instance, "fantasy" is used in the Wilson databases to indicate daydreaming & sex fantasies as well as fantastic literature. "Wilson" indicates the Wilson databases as a whole, so these headings reflect headings used in all Wilson databases, not just the arts & literature database.

feminism and literature
feminism in literature
feminist criticism
feminist literature
gender (keyword)
gender relations
heroines in literature
lesbianism in literature
matriarchy in literature
mothers and daughters in literature
patriarchy in literature
rape in literature
sex and language
sex role in literature
women and men in literature
women and technology
women authors
women in literature

fairy tales
fantastic literature
future in literature
magic realism literature
mythology in literature
science fiction
utopias in literature
vampires in literature

Searching Current Contents - Arts & Humanities

Current Contents does not apply their own subject headings although they will include subject headings printed with the article. Searching by particular authors is also very fruitful.


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