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EH510 -- The Eighteenth-Century Novel: Search Strategies

This Library Guide directs you to sources for information on the British eighteenth-century novel. The resources presented are selected and representative, not comprehensive, and are intended to provide a sampler of all the information sources available o

Page Overview

This page offers strategies and tips on how to search Houston Cole Library's online databases, JaxCat library catalog, and Gemfinder Discovery Search.    

Searching Databases

Why use electronic databases?

To identify and locate "partial" items

  • articles in journals, especially in peer-reviewed academic journals
    • many, if not most, academic journals have migrated from print to digital format
  • interviews in magazines
  • editorials in newspapers
  • information found in books
    • except for a few proprietary databases, databases index far fewer books than they do journal articles

Database Selection

Two approaches: Library home page (scroll down) Subject Guides <click>, Subject List <click>,  and then choose a subject <click> and then a database; OR Subject Specialists <click>, Nuttall <click>, and then Language and Literature: Electronic Databases by Subject and select a database. 

  • by Subject List (
  • by Subject Specialist (

Database selection depends on not only the subject being researched, but also on the approach to that subject

  • for example, searching Ann Radcliffe as a woman novelist will concentrate searching in the literary databases, but searching her as a woman novelist also will bring into play some of the social sciences databases

Database Layout

NOTE: The following information references EBSCOhost databases such as Academic Search Premier, partly because the library subscribes to so many of them and partly because the EBSCO interface is so user friendly. 

Search window (make sure database is set for Advanced Search)

  • Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)
    • define the relationship between the terms in the boxes to either side of the operator
      • AND usually returns the fewest search results but with the highest relevance
      • OR returns the greatest number of results, but at the expense of relevance
      • NOT is used to block words which may sabotage a search (like "film," if what you are seeking is book reviews)
    • if manually entered, Boolean operators must be typed in ALL CAPS
  • Select a Field (directs search engine to search only specific parts of an item record)
    • SU usually returns fewest results but with highest relevance
    • TX usually returns highest number of results but with less relevance
    • Select a Field is midpoint default setting and is suitable for most searching
    • TI is for the partial item (article, essay, chapter)                                      
    • SO is for the entire item (journal, magazine, book)

 Relevance trifecta

  • Using the term(s) you have typed in the Search box(es)  as your measuring standard, in the center pane of the interface (Results  List), look for matches of your search terms in
    • the hi-lited title of the article 
    • the Subjects line beneath the article citation
    • the article Abstract (a summary of the article); to view the Abstract, click on the article title to migrate to the full record screen
      • the more matches you get, the greater the likelihood the article will be useful

Center pane (Search Results)

  • lists the results harvested from a search with links to full text (where applicable)
    • clicking on blue folder image at right side of pane will add item to a master folder (top of screen)
    • full text options
      • HTML and PDF text is available within database
      • Full Text Finder and Linked Full Text search for full text outside of database

Left pane (Refine Results)

  • permits search manipulation through filtering by document type and format, date range, and other limiters
    • filtering will reduce number of results from previous searches

Right pane (Tools)

  • does not become visible until hi-lited title of article is clicked on
    • offers citation generator and full text retention options

Search Algorithm

The algorithm can be tweaked to work with databases provided by other vendors.  Most databases offer the same features, only sometimes with different names and in different locations on their interfaces when compared to EBSCO.

Database Searching

    1.  Make sure database is set for Advanced Search (three search boxes stacked).

     2.  Enter principal (broadest or main) term in top Search box; <search>.

  • making initial search unfiltered shows maximum number of results possible
    • following initial search is good time to apply left pane Refine Search filters such as document type and full text 

     3.  Peruse search results for relevancy and additional filtering terms.

  • see Relevance trifecta above
  • look at titles of items indexed and Subjects line for terms which could be added to the search to get nearer the "bullseye" of your subject  

     4.  Consider alternate search terms and truncation.

  • alternate terms = words which have some connection with words already used in Search boxes
    • e.g., "mind" or "mental" for "psychological"
  • truncation = using the asterisk (*) at the end of an abbreviated term in order to account for variant forms of the word
    • e.g., psychol* will stand for psychology, psychologies, psychologist, psychologists, psychological
      • permits piggy-backing multiple searches into single search without compromising quality of search results
  • alternate terms and truncation both should  increase the number of search results
    • researchers want information; ideas, arguments, opinions -- abstract concepts
    • digital search engines are literal; they will look for the words typed into the Search boxes
    • therefore researchers should choose search terms  most likely to harvest the information they seek
      • vocabulary drill: concept overrules language 

   5.  Enter first filtering term in middle Search box; <search>. 

   6.  Enter additional refining terms (if needed) in third and following Search box(es).

Add rows, change Boolean operators and search fields as needed. 

Use left pane to limit search results; use right (Tools) pane for citation formats and full text retention options. 

Searching JaxCat Online Catalog

Why use library catalogs?

To identify and locate "whole" items the library owns or has access to

  • books, journals, magazines, newspapers
  •  CDs, DVDs, LPs

 Linkpath: (JSU Home) ~ (Library Home) ~ JaxCat  (radio button/leave Search box empty) <Search>

  • tabbed/dropdown screen displaying all JaxCat search modes and options will appear

JaxCat Searching 

NOTE:  For all modes of JaxCat searching, before performing the search look at the Search Tips just beneath the search window.

Author search (use Author tab): used to find book written by a person or persons (corporate author)

  • type in name (last name first order)
    • capitalization and comma after last name do not matter; spelling and inverted name order matter very much
  • books will appear in results list in alphabetical order by title

Title search (use Title tab): used to see if Houston Cole Library owns or has (electronic) access to a particular book

  • most precise search available and often harvests a single result
  • correct spelling is important; capitalization is not
    • if first word of book title is an article (a, an, the), do not type in the initial article or your search will be sabotaged

Subject search (use Subject tab): used to find information about something or someone

  • type subject term in Search box (last name first order if subject is a person); <search>
  • consider appropriate sub-headings , if available, in the Results List scroll-down (e.g., criticism and interpretation); <search> 
  • books in results list will appear in reverse chronological order, most recent to the top

Keyword search (use Advanced tab): like a subject search, only more flexible

  • type terms in Search boxes (personal names in normal order; multiple-word search terms as a phrase)
    • use "as a phrase" dropdown
  • set Boolean operators <search>
  • add search terms to refine results <search>
    • consider truncation 
      • in JaxCat, the truncation symbol is the question mark (?); do not use the asterisk, which is reserved for databases
        • crit? will piggy-back critic, critics, criticism, criticisms, critical
  • books in results list will be in reverse chronological order

Caveat:  In both Subject and Advanced search, do not search for minor titles (titles which in print would have "quotation marks"around them).  JaxCat contains very few records for minor titles, and searching for information on these titles more often than not will sabotage the search.  There are other ways to access minor titles; ask your librarian for help.

Add Limits (Optional)

Of all the JaxCat searches, Advanced is the most flexible, to the point of incorporating all the other searches, and permits limits and filters for refining searches not available in other search modes.  See below for details or go to

Information on Specific Search Limits


Limits results to those languages selected from the pull-down menu.

Library Location

Limits results to those at a physical place, (one of the locations listed within the menu).

  • Reference Collection

Date of Publication

Confines search results to materials published in a single year or span of years.


Use this limit when you are interested in results in one of these two mediums:

Electronic Resource

- material that is accessed, processed, or executed by computer. This includes digitized text, images, and other materials regardless of how they are delivered (Internet, CD-ROM, etc.). Corresponds to the Quick Limit  "All Electronic Resources" and is the most comprehensive way to select online materials.  This limiter is particularly useful when searching for e-books.


Microforms - material published on microfiche or microfilm


Use this limit when you are interested in certain publication types. For each format material can be any medium such as: paper, Internet, microfiche, etc.

Books - stand alone text publications
Serials - materials published recurrently; e.g. journals, annuals, newsletters, etc.
Music Scores  
Maps - maps in any format (book, map sheet, etc.), or medium (print, digital, etc.), but search will cover only Columbia holdings that have been cataloged. For more maps, see the Map Collection in Lehman Library.
Visual Materials - videos, DVDs, slides, filmstrips, transparencies, etc.
Music Sound Recordings  
Spoken Recordings  
Drawings and Photographs - two-dimensional, non-projectable, graphic; e.g. drawings, photos, computer graphics, etc.
Computer Files - computer software; computer-oriented multimedia; online systems or services. (For a broader search of material in electronic formats, choose the Medium limit "Electronic Resources"  but do not use these two limits at the same time.)

Place of Publication

Use this limit when you are interested in materials published in a particular place.

Relevance trifecta

Once the results list from a Subject or Advanced Search is visible

  • Clicking on a title will bring up the full record screen for that book
    • clicking on a heading from the list of subjects will bring up a list of books topically related to the first book; this is one way to expand JaxCat search results
    • clicking on Full Record View in the upper right-hand corner of the screen will bring up an expanded record for the book, sometimes including the contents listing, which offers further insight on the book's usefulness without have to examine the entire book
    • clicking on the "About This Book" link in the lower right of the screen will take you to the book's jacket blurb in Google books, which in this context functions as an abstract for the book and offers further insight into the book's usefulness for your research

Seek matches with your search terms at all three levels to assess relevance.


Searching Gemfinder Discovery

Why use GemFinder?

To search for articles and, occasionally, books, when

  • the topic of research is so obscure that likely not much has been written about it
  • the subject is one that could be addressed in many databases, and you are not sure which individual (i.e., native) databases to look in

What is Gemfinder?

Gemfinder is a super-database, vended by EBSCOhost, that not only indexes records found in EBSCOhost databases but also includes content of databases from other vendors.  As with native databases, Gemfinder should be set to Advanced Search mode before the search commences.

Gemfinder positives

  • like GoogleSearch, indexes a tremendous number of information records 
  • contains records from not only multiple vendors, but from JaxCat as well
    • best search engine for one-stop shopping

Gemfinder negatives

  • like GoogleSearch, indexes a tremendous number of information records 
    • can generate extremely high numbers of records returned in an initial search, which can lead to problems with relevance sorting
      • therefore, best used when
        • the topic of research is so obscure that likely not much has been written about it
        • the subject is one that could be addressed in many databases, and you are not sure which individual (i.e., native) databases to look in
    • not every record that is in a native database migrates into Gemfinder; some things can be found only by searching the native database (scroll down to Filter By Database at bottom of left pane to see which native database hosts the most content)   

Gemfinder workarounds

  • the filtering process of the initial search results list must begin sooner and be performed more rigorously than it would in a single, native database, largely to bring the huge number of results down to something more manageable
    • first, activate the left pane filters of document format and/or type and date range (if applicable)
    • next, change the field setting from the default "Select a Field" to a more specific setting, starting with the Search box which contains your main (or "umbrella") search term -- usually the top box
      • SU Subject Terms should increase relevance and reduce the number of search results at the same time
    • repeat this step through the other boxes until you get a workable number of records to select from