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ENGLISH: Subject Guide

Resource suggestions and search tips for research in English literature and creative writing.

Slides from Class - October 22

Brainstorm Questions & Keywords

lightbulb with a brain inside it illustrationBefore you start searching, take the time to brainstorm research questions and keywords.

Having specific research questions will guide and focus your searching. Having a good list of search terms, or keywords, based on those questions will make your searching so much easier! You'll have multiple options of words to try, if some don't seem to be as useful as others.

Because library databases aren't good at searching natural language (the way we speak and ask questions naturally), it's especially important to break down your topic or questions into keywords.


Use some basic questions to help you brainstorm specific research questions and keywords.

  • Who is involved? Who is affected?
  • Are there key figures related to your topic?
  • Who writes about or shares information on your topic?
  • What are the key issues and questions surrounding your topic?
  • What are some potential answers or solutions to those issues?
  • Are there key dates associated with your topic? When did major events related to your topic happen? 
  • Are you focused on a particular period of history?
  • Is there a geographic location that is important to your topic? 
  • Can you focus your topic on a particular location?
  • How does your topic affect your life, others' lives, or the world around you?
  • Why are you interested in your topic? Why should others be interested?
  • Why do your research questions matter?

Search Library Databases

double arrow pointing rightStart here.

Then try other databases listed in the next few tabs. Where you search depends on which topic you've chosen, and what you want to know about that topic.

double arrow pointing rightTry these databases for business-focused research

double arrow pointing rightUse these databases to find news and magazine articles

double arrow pointing rightTry these databases for historical & political research

double arrow pointing rightTry these databases for communication & tech-focused research

double arrow pointing rightTry these databases for education-focused research