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Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

A guide to University of Alabama resources for research on gender and sexuality

General Search Strategies

  • Use specific keywords and phrases that get to the core of your topic:
    • For the research question, "Why are LGBTQ books the particular objects of book bans?"
    • Search for the keywords: book bans, LGBTQ
  • Put phrases, names, and titles in quotes to keep them together:
    • "book bans"
    • "Heather Has Two Mommies"
    • "LGBTQ books"
  • Brainstorm synonyms and related terms:
    • gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer
    • "children's literature"
    • censorship
  • Anchor your search with a specific time, place, and/or concept.
    A search for censorship AND LGBTQ AND "United States" will return more targeted results than a search for censorship.

Finding the Right Search Terms

The language we use to talk about gender and sexuality changes rapidly, which means that you won’t always be able to use the most current and preferred language to find the information you need. Be aware that you're likely to encounter outdated and possibly offensive terms when you're digging into this literature, particularly in historical texts.

Tips for Finding Effective Search Terms

  • Do some "pre-search" by reading about your topic in a reference source or textbook.
    • Wikipedia can be a great resource at the early stages of research. You can use it to identify vocabulary for your keyword searches, give you some background information, and point you toward scholarly sources and reporting on your topic.
  • Look at the subject tags on your search results to identify additional search terms.
    • You'll find these under the search result in most databases, and on the item page.
      A screenshot of an item record in Scout, with the subjects highlighted in yellow.
  • Use database thesauri and subject heading lists.
    • Many databases have standardized lists of terms, or a "controlled vocabulary," for consistent subject labeling. You can keyword search these to find the best search terms for your topic.
    • In EBSCO databases, look for a link to a thesaurus or subject heading list in the blue ribbon menu across the top of the page.
      A screenshot of the EBSCO database LGBTQ+ Source, with the Thesaurus link highlighted.
    • In ProQuest databases, look for the thesaurus link above the search fields.
      A screenshot of the ProQuest database "GenderWatch" with the thesaurus link highlighted.

Consult the reference sources below for current and historical terms:

Advanced Search Strategies

  • Use wildcards to search for related words. 
    • Use ? to replace a single letter:
      • wom?n searches for "woman," "women," "womyn," and "womxn"
    • Use * at the end of a word to search for multiple forms of a word:
      • sexual* searches for "sexual," "sexuality," "sexualities," "sexualize," "sexualization"
  • Use boolean operators to craft your search string.
    • Boolean operators--the words AND, OR, and NOT--connect your search terms to add, combine, and exclude terms from your search. You can type them into the search field (use all caps!), or use the dropdown menus on the advanced search. Click the links below to see sample searches in Scout.
    • AND combines search terms: Searching, "book bans" AND "LGBTQ" returns items that contain both of these terms.
    • OR adds terms to your search. Searching, "book bans" OR "censorship" returns items that contain either of these terms.
    • NOT excludes terms from your search. Searching, "book bans" NOT "picture books" returns items about book bans that do not contain the phrase "picture books."
      A visual representation of the Boolean searches above using Venn diagrams.
  • Use field searching for a more precise search.
    • Use the dropdown menus to search for your terms in the title, author, subject, or abstract fields only.
      A screenshot of the advanced search in Scout, with the field search drop-down menu open and highlighted.


Where to Search

These databases are all good starting points for finding books and scholarly materials on gender and sexuality.