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Modern Languages

This guide provides resources for students and faculty conducting research in Modern Languages, including, but not limited to: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.

Keywords

PATH: Lighting Your Way From Research to Writing
(UNCG Libraries ) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 

Keywords and Languages

When searching for materials that may be written in languages other than English, create two lists of keywords to use as search terms - one in English and one in the language studied.

For example, if you need an article written in Spanish, use OR to combine Spanish and English search terms:

  • women OR mujeres
  • female OR feminino
  • companion OR compañero

The databases are trying to match search terms to words in a source's

  • title,
  • author,
  • abstract/summary,
  • subject,
  • and full text (if available).

As shown in the screenshot, databases in the U.S. usually use English for the subject(s). The title and abstract/summary/description might be translated into English or appear in the original language only. The full text will be in the original language.

Using both languages increases the likelihood you will find relevant results, no matter which language they are written in.

Title in Spanish, subject in English

Diacritics & Alphabets

Most databases ignore diacritics (e.g. accent marks: è, tildes: n`, umlauts ö). If you aren't sure, try your search with and without the diacritics. 

If you are researching in a language that uses a non-Roman alphabet or writing system (e.g.Japanese kanji or Russian Cyrillic),  search using the Romanized versions of those languages. Check with your professor for recommendations for Romanizing the language you are studying.

Researching Critically

Effective research requires that you critically evaluate your sources and how you search for information. 


Evaluate your sources

Read or examine multiple sources. Explore a topic from different perspectives by locating more than one source on your topic. You can gain greater insight by seeing how different authors treat the same work, or character, or scene. Seek variety in terms of:

  • author/researcher's demographics (e.g. gender, sexual identity, country of origin, race, age and/or time period in which they lived)
  • literary theory (see John Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism for more context)
  • focus -- if you find a source that focuses on the role of men in a particular work, seek out sources that focus on women; if a source examines the symbolism in the use of color, seek out sources that explore other symbols in the same work or the use of color in other, similar works. 

Follow the references. Does your source cite references or otherwise indicate where they got their information? If not, why not? If yes, read some of those sources so that you can evaluate their information. 

Note: Sources may disagree with each other. This is okay, that disagreement helps us understand a topic. Be concerned when a source is discredited, particularly when the facts presented are disproved or the research process is questioned. 

Check your assumptions

Your search terms may bias your search results. Some terms assume an outcome; use of these terms may result in only locating articles that agree with that outcome. These terms include:

  • support
  • benefit
  • harm
  • improves
  • prevents 

If you must use a search term that indicates an outcome or relationship, try:

  • impact 
  • influence
  • affect 
  • effect

Change your search method to change your search results. Increase your search results by:

  • searching in several databases;
  • following the citation trail -- what works did the author cite; what works cite this article;
  • searching for different formats: books, journal articles, dissertations.

Identify the scholarly conversation(s). The sources you locate are part of a conversation among researchers and scholars in an effort to better understand writing center practices and theories. Identifying a conversation helps determine what has already been written about a topic and if there are known gaps in our knowledge. The conversation may entail:

  • best practices
  • research methods
  • theoretical approaches 

Look at how your topic is discussed by other researchers, what language they use to describe it, what experts they reference, what topics they consider related to your topic. Try new searches using these concepts. 

Literature Research Guides

These guides are book length publications describing resources such as scholarly journals, bibliographies, primary sources (aka manuscripts and archives) for literary research. These guides are particularly helpful if you are trying to determine what information, exactly, you can find in one resource, but not another.

Caveats:

  1. Guides are invariably out of date as soon as they are published.
  2. K-State Libraries will not own or subscribe to all resources described.

Ask a Librarian if you are unable to access a resource or otherwise have questions about using research materials. Interlibrary loan can help fill some gaps. We can also identify other libraries in the region where you may be able to access online resources or collections.