Skip to Main Content

Getting Started

This guide will help you find resources in Native American Studies. Use the tabs at the left to get started. Because Native American Studies is an interdisciplinary subject, you may need to consult resources from many different disciplines. See for a list of disciplines, along with links to their research guides.

A Note About Keywords

Before you do any searching in the catalog or a database, brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your topic.

  • Consider synonyms

    • woman vs. female

  • Consider alternate spellings

    • labor vs. labour

    • 16th century vs. sixteenth century

  • Consider broader and narrower terms

    • Great Britain vs. England

Be aware of problems you may encounter:

  • Homonyms. Remember databases and catalogs match characters, not concepts.

    • For example, the word "China": is it a country or a set of dishes? The computer can't tell!

  • Sometimes there is no universally agreed up term or phrase for a concept.

    • For example, middle ages vs. medieval, Native American vs. Indian, motion picture vs. movie vs. film

  • Avoid searching for long phrases or sentences. Extract key concepts instead.

    • For example, avoid searching "How to design and implement alcoholism treatment programs"  |  Try instead the keywords: alcoholism and treatment
  • Keep in mind that older works may use language that is considered offensive today.

The database (or catalog) you are searching may help you choose keywords, because many of them systematically assign subject headings to all works listed within them. Look for the "subject terms" or "descriptors" in the record of a book or an article. These tell you what the preferred term is in a database/catalog and can sometimes help you choose other words to search.

For example, this is a screen shot from Discover Local (the library's catalog). The words in the red circle are the subject terms assigned to this book. If you were actually in Discover Local (the catalog) and looking at this record, clicking on the highlighted subject term, Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945, would help you find more works on the same topic.

screen shot of book in Discover Local

  • When you're ready to start searching, begin with very specific keywords, and then go broader if you can’t find anything.  For example, start with a person’s name or an event, rather than just the general term Civil War.

  • If you can’t find anything specific, start adding more specific terms to a general search: Civil War and women, for example.