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POLI 381: Politics of Memory

Workshop Materials

Books, articles and resources beyond Vassar; see the Primary Sources page for more. 

  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
    • Books, articles, film, dissertations and other resources not available at Vassar. ILLiad is our ILL platform.
  • WorldCat
    • The "world's catalog"; a great resource for locating books.
  • Purchase Request Form
    • Please complete for books/ebooks, films and more, especially if you plan to heavily rely on the item and would like to borrow the resource for a longer period of time.
  • NY Library catalogs
    • Every college student in NY, regardless of your home state, can apply for a New York Public Library (NYPL) card. This allows you to access NYPL online resources and request to view items in person.
  • Center for Research Libraries (CRL)
    • A large research collection that includes an international newspaper archive.
  • HathiTrust
    • A great and free online repository for older materials, especially those within the public domain. 
  • Internet Archive
    • A surprisingly good source for ebooks from the 1950's-early 2000's, radio shows/podcasts and other miscellaneous resources. Access may require free account creation. 
  • GoogleScholar
    • Author(s) may make their publications available (the final version or a preprint) online through their own webpages, academic networking sites, or institutional repositories.
  • Institutional Repositories
    • You may find resources housed in college and university institutional repositories that contain the scholarly output/publications/dissertations of that community. 

You will likely go through the search process a number of times, performing different searches with different keyword combinations, to address the different components of your literature review. 

Systematic Searching Handsearching
#1 Identify your question. Identify the key concepts and related terms. Tip:  You may want to re-phrase your question. Background reading can help you identify related terms and further define or narrow your topic.  Explore reference lists to locate other articles, books, or authors who have written on the same topic. 
#2 Find an appropriate search tool. Consider your subject matter, discipline of study, type of information needed (e.g. peer reviewed articles) Locate cited by literature to view more recent similar or adjacent research.

#3 Start with a simple search based on your key concepts. Tip: You may also have to look at literature that refers to one (not all) aspects of your research question.

Browse the table of contents of relevant journals and special issues.

#4 Use specific search strategies.

  • Use AND to join dissimilar terms.
  • Use OR to join synonyms or related terms.
  • Truncate words with * to pick up variations of that word. 
  • Use "quotation marks" for phrase searching
  • Use database limiters e.g. limit to scholarly journals. 
  • Consider searching in a specific field e.g. title (article title) or source (journal title.)
Locate an expert in the field and browse their publications.  
#5 Search and skim results. Look for the language and terms that researchers use and that the database assigns to articles; identify and search or refine your results using subject headings.  
#6 Switch up your searches.  Use promising new terminology.  Your search may become more sophisticated.  

Literature Synthesis Grids

Synthesis grids are organizational tools for recording the main concepts of your sources and can help with connecting your sources to one another.

Catalogue & Database Accounts

Vassar Library Search and many of our databases platforms (Ebsco, ProQuest, etc.) allow users to create free accounts where you can save searches and items from results lists. 

Zotero Citation Manager

Zotero is a free easy-to-use citation management tool to help you collect, store, organize, cite, and share your research sources. Zotero can format in-text citations and generate references lists using your preferred citation style. 

More information about citing and style guides on the Citing & Managing Sources


Trello is a free project management software. You can use it for setting deadlines, keeping track of tasks and more. See Organizing the research process using Trello to get started. There are free and paid versions; I use the free version almost daily. 

Google Keep

Somewhat similar to Trello, Google Keep is best used for visualizing tasks and creating checklists. 


An platform for notes and electronic notebooks. Free and paid versions, both cloud-based and desktop versions. 

  1. Don't try to keep it all in your head.
    1. Diagram your tentative topic/ research question (Kristin Luker's Bedraggled Daisy
    2. Document your research process; consider using a synthesis grid or a research log/journal to plan out your current tasks and next steps.
    3. Annotate your references documents. If possible, work this into your search process and note why the source is relevant and how you might use it, as you save them. If using Zotero, you can use its built-in annotation tools. 
  2. When saving sources, look for permalinks or DOIs
  3. Create accounts with the database platforms you are using regularly to save searches and results.
  4. Use a citation manager. Zotero is a great and free option. 

Keyword Brainstorm