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How do I Research?: An Example

A guide to conducting research for OCAD U coursework and beyond

Examples of Keyword Searches in the Library Catalogue

Note the difference between results using the following searches using the library catalogue:

Researching Artists

  • General Keyword: Greg Curnoe retrieves over 50 titles all about Greg Curnoe
  • Subject Keyword:  Greg Curnoe retrieves just 10 titles

WHY is there a difference?

  • General Keyword searches retrieve:
    • surveys or anthologies that include Greg Curnoe but are not solely about him as a subject
    • vertical files (VF) exhibition catalogues that do not have subject headings assigned in the library catalogue
    • only results about Greg Curnoe; as he has a thoroughly distinctive last name, any results with both greg and curnoe in the catalogue record will be about Greg Curnoe the Canadian regionalist artist.  Note that this will not always be the case with artists who have common names such as:
      • Keyword Search: Mike Brown retrieves 40 titles and only one out of 40 is about Mike Brown the Australian artist! A Subject Search on Mike Brown retrieves the one book on the Australian artist more quickly and effectively
  • Subject or Name (which are people's names as subjects) Keyword searches yield only book specifically about the artist and not anthologies, group exhibition catalogues, historical surveys of artistic mediums (for ex., painting in canada), or vertical files (VF) that may mention your artist.  In this case, almost 40 titles are not included in a Subject or Name Keyword search on Greg Curnoe.  

Researching Themes in Art

  • General Keyword: Identity in art retrieves over 370 titles, but many are "false hits" and not on topic
  • Subject Keyword: Identity in art retrieves 66 titles

WHY is there a difference?

  • General Keyword searches retrieve:
    • only occurrences of the word in a catalogue record; the term identity and art will be used frequently in publications; however most of these titles will not be about the theme of identity as expressed through art.  So in this case:
  • a Subject Keyword search will be much more effective for quickly and effectively finding information

Researching Timeperiods

WHY do the above searches yield such poor results?!

  • Although time periods described by decade, especially from the Twentieth Century, are recognized as a subject (for ex. a subject search on sixties  yields almost 30 books), it is better to use broader subject keywords such as:
    • 20th Century design which retrieves over 700 titles! although this is far too many results, so now you may want to:
      1. find a survey history of 20th century design, then use the chapter that cover sixties design internationally OR
    • continue searching then
      1. add a geographic region, such as: 20th century design Canada which retrieves 13 useful titles OR
      2. add a design medium, such as 20th Century interior design which retrieves over 40 titles OR
      3. find a representative designer from the sixties, then search for them as subjects or keywords (if they have distinctive names such as  Charles and Ray Eames which yields  over 30 titles from a general keyword search)