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Copy of SSI1-115:Imaging Blackness: Assignment 1: Exploring a Topic

Scholarship as Conversation

Start with a Broad Topic

As you begin preliminary searching, start with a broad topic. Below are some examples:

  • Racism and film
  • Race relations and film
  • African American men and film
  • African American women and film
  • African Americans and stereotypes and film

Practice: Comparing and Evaluating Search Tools

Choose a broad topic (no more than 2-3 concepts) and conduct a preliminary investigation into the topic using three different search tools: Google Scholar, a multidisciplinary database, and a subject database.  Use the same terms for each search tool.

Write your search terms on the worksheet linked below.

Respond to the following questions:

  • How many results did you get?
  • What types of sources are included?
  • Are the sources popular, scholarly or both?
  • Scan the first two pages of search results. List some aspects of your topic discussed.
  • Rank the search tools in order of relevance to your topic, with one being the most relevant.

Multidisciplinary Databases

The databases listed below are examples of multidisciplinary search tools.

Through these databases you will find scholarly articles, popular magazine articles, newspaper articles, and many other types of materials that have been published in periodicals that come from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives.

Searching these databases is an excellent way to discover which disciplines have studied your topic, and get a sense of the different perspectives they bring to the topic.

Recommended Subject Databases

These subject databases may be especially useful for your research projects for this class. Depending on your topic and your angle, you may wish to search additional subject databases.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar searches open access materials as well as items from many publishers, including some of the resources to which Collins Library subscribes. However, Google Scholar only searches a fraction of the published scholarly literature. Use the databases listed on the page as well as others found on the database A-Z list.


  • Use advanced searching to search phrases, authors, publications, and dates.
  • Google Scholar includes many citations that link directly to publishers' web sites of which most will charge a fee for access. However, Collins Library may subscribe to these publications. Search the journal title in Primo.
  • Google Scholar provides forward citation searching, automatically extracting and displaying works cited as separate results.
Google Scholar Search

Search Tips

Use these search tips to get the most relevant results.

  • When searching a specific phrase that contains two or more words, use quotes around the phrase.
    • "African American men"
    • "comedy films"
  • Use AND to narrow a search.
    • "African American women" AND stereotypes AND film
  • Use OR for synonyms to broaden a search.
    • "African Americans" AND "motion pictures" AND (cops OR detectives or police)

When searching specific films:

  • With every search add (film OR movie OR motion picture). If the movie title has two or more words, include quote marks.
    • Ex. "Princess and the Frog" AND (film OR movie OR motion picture)
  • If the movie is one word, add an actor or director. Ex. Butler AND "Lee Daniels" AND (film OR movie OR motion picture)


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Angela Weaver
Collins Library 131