Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.


Library building hours and access are limited at this time. Services and support are being provided remotely. See COVID-19 library updates.

ENGL 416a Library Resources for English 416a: Contemporary British Fiction: Search Techniques

Essential Search Techniques

Keyword search

icon of a key on a document

Search engines, like Google, search by keyword. The default search in Orbis, Quicksearch, and Articles+ is also by keyword, where you will get results with your keyword(s) located anywhere in the record or document.

"Using phrases"

If you have a specific phrase you want to find as a keyword, such as "World War" or "Great Britain" it is important to include these terms as phrases. To do so, simply put quotation marks around the phrase. Doing so will ensure that the catalog or database does not look for each word separately, meaning "world" in one place and "war" somewhere else -- which will not be useful!

Subject search

A subject defines a book or an article as a whole, and subject headings link information -- just like how hashtags link conversations in social media (#yalelibrary). Using subject headings is an effective way of doing research.

Ways to identify library subject headings:
  1. Start with a keyword search in Orbis or Quicksearch, and do a keyword search on your basic topic
  2. Identify 2 or 3 books that are loosely related to your topic (they don't have to be perfect, just close enough).
  3. Open the book records and look at the "Subject" field -- these are hyperlinks! Click them to start a new search to find books on that exact subject.
  4. If the link subject worked for you, write it down so you can remember it later! 
Some resources will offer the ability to browse subjects:
  1. ​in Orbis, select "Subject Browse" from Orbis Basic Search dropdown menu
  2. in the database MLA International Bibliography, select the option for Advanced Search, where you will see fields with options to "Look up..." which will help direct you to the correct terminology to surface better results 
  • Many individual databases have their own thesauri or controlled vocabulary. Browse or search these thesauri to find the "correct" version of words and phrases used as subjects, which you can then apply to your search.
Recommended subject headings for English 416a (Orbis or Quicksearch)

When searching for any of these subject headings, for best results take out dividing punctuation ( >) and use quotation marks (see image below).

  • World War, 1939-1945 > Literature and the war
  • English fiction > 20th century > History and criticism
  • World War, 1939-1945 > Influence
  • World War, 1939-1945 > Great Britain > Literature and the war
  • War and literature > Great Britain
  • Modernism (Literature) > Great Britain
  • English literature > 20th century

Subject headings are available for authors, too. Do a SUBJECT BROWSE in Orbis for an author (last name, first name) to find their associated subject heading.

How to structure a search by subject in Books+

Boolean Operators

Combine search terms

You can combine your keyword and subject searches by using Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT in an Advanced SearchWhen combined with keywords and/or subjects, boolean operators will help focus your search in the following ways:

  • AND will narrow your search, requiring all search terms be present in results
  • OR will retrieve variations ("pets" or "dogs" or "pugs"), so at least one term (maybe more) is present in results
  • NOT will exclude items from your search, helping to narrow results to only relevant information

image of 3 venn diagrams depicting: "cats OR dogs", "cats AND dogs", and "cats NOT dogs"


In the example above:

  • cats OR dogs will return results where either cats or dogs are mentioned; this is a broad search
  • cats AND dogs will return results only when both cats and dogs are mentioned; this is a more specific search
  • cats NOT dogs will returns results when only cats are mentioned; this search eliminates results, so use it only if you have already done at least one search and need to exclude some results

Advanced Search

Below is an example of the concepts described here, as seen in an advanced search form. All databases will have an advanced search option to help you structure your search (using AND, OR, NOT operators). 

ROW 1: "world war II" or "world war two"

ROW 2: AND women or mother*

ROW 3: AND england or "great britain"

An example of an advanced search form


Notice that each of the fields say "All Fields" - this indicates a keyword search. When starting a new search, always keep your fields as keywords unless you know a subject heading already. Other options in these drop-down menus include author name, publication names, and title, to name a few.

Note: The asterick (*) after "mother" is telling the database to search for variations of the word "mother," such as "motherhood," "mothers," "mothering," etc.

Image Citations

From the Noun Project: "Keyword" icon by H. Alberto Gongora