UMGC Library

Poetry: Search Tips

A Library Research Guide

Search Tips for Poetry

How do I choose keywords for my searches?

  • Words to include
    For an poetry research topic, you would want to include, at the very least, the poet's name and the title of the poem you're researching.
  • Use quotation marks
    If the poem's title is longer than one word, you can optimize your search by putting quotation marks around the title. Using quotation marks will ensure that the database finds results that use that exact phrase.  
  • Use AND
    To search for both the writer and the work together, you need to link your search terms with and. This strategy will narrow your search. 
Keats and "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

Found too many results?

  • Add more keywords
    If you find that you are retrieving too many results, try adding more keywords to further narrow your topic.
Keats and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and criticism

Found too few results?

  • Use OR
    If you are searching for a lesser-known poet or poem, you may not find much information about the particular writer and work you have chosen. In this case you can try broadening your search by using or to link your terms. This strategy will broaden your search because it will return results that mention either Keats or "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
Keats or "Ode on a Grecian Urn"


  • Look for more general information 
    If you are still having trouble finding enough information, try looking for more general information about themesmotifs, or symbols that may occur in the work you are studying, or about traits typical of a particular type of poetry.
"romantic poetry"

Searching the Databases

How do I conduct a search?

Each of the databases will have its own search options. You can generally start with a basic search.


To perform a basic search, place your search terms directly in the database's search box:


Some databases also have an advanced search option. If you use an advanced search, you have more control over the types of results you will retrieve. 


For example, here is the advanced search screen from JSTOR:


Notice that the advanced search screen gives you options to filter your results by the type of publication, the date it was published, and the subject area or discipline. Using these filters can help you weed out irrelevant results. 



How do I focus my results?

If you retrieve too many results, look for options to filter your search results. On the search results screen, options are often listed to limit your results:


Limiting to criticism or reference works will weed out entries that just provide the text of the poem, without any additional analysis. 

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