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Research Guides

HIS196: Religion & Violence

Tips for building your search

Choosing your Search Terms

Think of the language that will be the most effective for your search and keep track of search terms that produce the best results. Ask yourself: 

  • Will your topic be discussed in the news using scholarly terms or would other terminology be more effective?
  • Has the terminology changed over time or based on location? 


Designing your Search Strategies

Some databases allow you to enter search terms on separate lines (e.g., enter a keyword the top line and researcher or activist's last name below, so as to articulate your search request)

Use Boolean Operators allow you to widen or narrow the search for your keywords and target your research topic (Quotation Marks, Asterisk, AND, OR, NOT):


Screen Shot ProQuest Advance Search with religi* AND genocide AND War in search fields



Quotations marks = search for specific phrases or names 

  • "Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit  "Mahatma Gandhi

  • "political violence"  "religious persecution" 


Asterisk * (wild card in certain databases) = search the word or characters before the asterisk  

  • violen* = violence, violen

  • religi* = religion, religions, religion's, religious 


AND = narrows your search 

  • history AND religi* AND war 

  • genocide AND religi*

  • Salem AND witch*


OR = widens your search 

  • (indigenous OR "first nations")  AND "Residential schools"

  • (China OR Xinjiang) AND Uyghurs AND religi*


NOT = exclude from your search 

  • (indigenous AND "Residential schools")  NOT Canad* 

  • Cambodi* AND "Khmer Rouge" AND  genocide NOT Tribunal 

Track your search terms

Remember there is never one search that can cover everything.

Keep track of your search strategies by recording the search terms that you use and how you use the Boolean Operators to combine them. It can help you keep track of what does and doesn't work. 

Certain research databases allow you to create a profile with your UToronto email and save your search history and re-run your searches (useful if you identify a theme you want to add to your argument).