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Ethnic Literature Course Guide (Lisa Heise)

Links to the readings and other information to complete homework and other assignments in this class.

Create a List of Search Terms (and Alternates) for Your Topic

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Figuring out the right search terms is a key part of conducting an effective search whether you are using library databases or searching the web. The process for developing good search terms is the same for both


How do I know what words to enter into a Search Box?

You may be assigned a topic to research or you may be asked to choose your own. Your topic will be your starting point in choosing search terms.note-taking icon

  • Types of search terms: 
    • keywords - a general list words related to your topic.
    • subject searches - words listed or bolded database lists
      • nouns - the names of something or someone -- people, things, places
        •  example - nouns for a topic in psychology: "depression,"  "bipolar disorder," "schizophrenia."
  • Make a list of main search terms 
  • Create a list of alternate search termssynonyms (different words that mean the same thing)
    • WHY? Different authors will use different terms that mean the same thing so If you can't find enough information using one search term, another
    • Consult a Thesaurus to find related or alternative words or synonyms.  

Search Terms for Ethnic Literature Studies

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Reminder: Create a list of terms to use in your searches. Include related or alternative words. If one term yields poor results, try another.

Basic Search Terms and Strategies - Single Word or Phrase




  • culture - cultural, "cultural group," "cultural assimilation," "cultural encounters,"
  • multicultural -   multiculturalism
    • African-American - Black, Afro-Caribbean
    • Asian-American - Anglo Asian
    • Latino - Latina, Latine, Latinx
    • Native American - Native, Indigenous, American Indian
  • ethnic - ethnicity,  multi-ethnic, "ethnic identity," "ethnic history"
  • identity -  "cultural identity," "ethnic identity," "racial identity," "identity politics"
  • race -  racial, "racial history"
  • ideology - ideological
  • fiction - novel, novella, short story
  • literature - literary, lit, "literary movement," "rhetorical movement"
  • poetry - poem, poet
  • author - novelist, poet, writer, audience, reader
  • gender - CIS, LBGTQA, "gender norms," non-binary
  • nationality - nationalism, nationalistic
  • intersectional - intersectionality


Advanced Search Strategies - Combining Words and Phrases

Boolean Searching (AND, OR, NOT)

  • politics AND race
  • "ethnic identity" AND literature
  • (African-American OR Black) AND (authors OR poets)

Truncation *

Use the root of a word and add an asterisk * to search for all variants of the root word.

  • nation* - nations, national, nationalistic, nationalism, etc.



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Don’t worry about doing research. Just search!

-  Austin Kleon -