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Research Guides

CIN211: Science Fiction Film

How to Choose Keywords

Using Film Details as Keywords

When identifying keywords for films, it is important to know the names of people involved in the film so you can build a search using those terms in combination with Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT) and Modifiers (Quotation marks, asterisk*, rounded brackets). Scroll down for tips to try in various Research Databases with FILTERS for Peer Review Journals (ProQuest, EBSCO, JSTOR, Project Muse). 

Use Film Titles and Names of People Involved

By combining the film title and director or an key actor's name, you can narrow search to exclude articles focused on sequels or book sources for adaptions: 

Cronenberg AND "The Fly"

  • Using quotations marks instructs the database to search for those exact characters in that order
  • Using AND instructs the database to find results including both keywords in its database record (or sometimes within the text of eResources).

"James Cameron" AND Aliens AND (Henn OR Newt)

  • Using an actor or character;s name as keywords can help to focus your search when it's a sequel or remake of a film. 
  • To widen your search, use OR to instruct the database to look for either keywords. This approach can widen your results. 

(“Anisia Uzeyman” OR “Saul Williams”) AND  ("science fiction" OR "Neptune Frost") 

  • Recent films will have less scholarship is available so try including another keyword other than the film titles in one of your searches


Use Cinema Studies Terminology as Keywords

Keep in mind that synonyms and acronyms are important when it comes to film research because film terminology changes over time because of advances in technology, new theoretical lenses, spellings, and the mix of academic and popular language: 

  • Film, Cinema, "Motion Pictures", "Moving Image", Movie, Talkies, Video
  • Movie Theater, Movie Theatre, Movie Palace, Screenings
  • "Science Fiction",  Sci-Fi, SciFi


Use Boolean Operators to Combine Film or Thematic Keywords  

Rather than crafting multiple searches, use Boolean Operator OR to instruct database on how to prioritize your keywords in a search: 

(“Anisia Uzeyman” OR “Saul Williams”) AND (scifi OR "science fiction" OR sci-fi)

  • For recent films, you may need to widen the search and remove the film title to find content that is tied the film 

(Sci-Fi OR "science fiction" OR scifi) AND "blade runner" NOT villaneuve

  • If a film has sequels or been adapted by others, you can exclude the content addressing later films using the Boolean Operator NOT. 
    • (Solaris AND Tarkovsky) NOT Clooney

Tips for Building your Search

Boolean Operators - Combining your Search Terms

Enter search terms on separate lines e.g., enter title of film on the top line, director's last name below, so as to articulate your search request. Use Boolean Operators to improve your search:

  • AND (narrows your search by requiring all keywords)

    • robots AND "motion pictures"

    • Paramount AND distribution

  • OR (widens your search)

    • "Motion pictures* OR film* OR movies OR cinema

    • scifi OR "science fiction" OR sci-fi

    • MGM OR "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer"

    • "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" OR "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"

  • NOT (exclude keyword from search results)

    • (Twenty Thousand OR 20,000 OR 20000) AND "Leagues Under the Sea" NOT book

Boolean Modifiers Narrow or Widen Your Search

  • Quotations marks (search for specific phrases or names)

    • "Science Fiction", "Denis Villeneuve""Invasion of the Body Snatchers"

    •  "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas"

  • Asterisk * as a Wildcard (widen your search results with truncation to include various word endings and spellings)

    • CanadCanadian,  Canadians,  Canada,  Canada's  

    • cybercybernetic,  cyber,  cyper-punk,  cyberspace   

  • Parentheses or Rounded Brackets (...)

    • (Twenty Thousand OR 20,000 OR 20000) AND "Leagues Under the Sea" AND (Motion pictures OR film* OR movie OR cinem*)

    • (Twenty Thousand OR 20,000 OR 20000) AND "Leagues Under the Sea" NOT boo

Experiment by cutting and pasting these search queries into UofT LibrarySearch or other Research Databases

How do I use the Boolean search option in LibrarySearch?

boolean search for social and policy not economic

Boolean search operators can be used in Advanced Search box. Boolean operators allow you to combine search terms using the following commands:

  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT
  • NEAR


 Boolean search  Every search result will have
 social AND policy  Both "social" and "policy" 
 social OR policy  Either "social" or "policy"
 social NOT policy  "Social" but not "policy"
 social NEAR/2 policy  Both "Policy" and "social".  "Policy" will appear within two words before or after "social"  
 social ONEAR/2 policy    Both "Policy" and "social".  "Policy" will appear within two words after "social"


For more information on using all the many features and functions of LibrarySearch, have a look at this guide on using the new system.

Search using Subject Headings for Sci-Fi Film Genres

Subject headings are similar to tags or hashtags. They describe the topic of an item in a database, but unlike tags they come from an official, standardized set of terms and are assigned by cataloguing experts.

Use subject headings to:

  • Quickly determine the subject of an article or book
  • Search the library catalogue or other library databases more efficiently
  • Discover other items on the same subject. 

Searching with Subject Headings

  1. Go to UTL LibrarySearch Advanced Search
  2. Set up the search field by changing dropdown menu from Any Field to Subject
  3. Enter any of the Subject Headings found below exactly as it appears in the Search Box 
    • To direct the database to search for the exact key word: Use quotation marks (e.g., "Motion Pictures", "Motion pictures -- Aesthetics") OR change the next drop down menu to is (exact) to search for that spelling.
  4. If using various keywords, experiment using the dropdown search operators (AND, OR, NOT)  to build your search query. 
    • Subject contains "science fiction films"  AND Subject contains gender 
  5. Press Enter or click on the Search button in bottom right corner.  


For additional search tips for subject headings, review: How can I use subject headings to improve my searching? 

Screenshot of UofT Advanced Search with subject field for "motion pictures" AND films AND is (exact) Cinematography

Subject Headings linked to Science Fiction Genre

  • Science Fiction films
  • Science fiction films--History and criticism
  • Apocalypse In Motion Pictures
  • Cyborgs In Motion Pictures
  • Dystopian Films
  • Diseases In Motion Pictures
  • Extraterrestrial Beings
  • Human-alien encounters.
  • Human Body In Motion Pictures
  • Monsters In Motion Pictures
  • Monster Films
  • Motion Picture Producers And Directors
  • Nature In Motion Pictures
  • Production And Direction
  • Robots In Motion Pictures
  • Science In Motion Pictures
  • Space And Time In Motion Pictures
  • Special Effects
  • Star Trek Films
  • Star Wars Films
  • Superhero Films
  • Technology In Motion Pictures
  • Utopias In Motion Pictures
  • Zombie Films