Research Rabbit Hole: Try multiple databases

Subject: Thesaurus term limiters to narrow a search.

I am regularly in awe of the intellectual work done at UW Tacoma, and I’m proud to be a tiny part of that work. This is especially true when a student presents me with a research idea I would have never, ever thought of. For example, a student was looking for resources about the way humans exhibit and reinforce gender stereotypes in zoos.

We started with my favorite interdisciplinary database, Academic Search Complete. Using keywords sociology OR anthropology OR gender, AND zoo OR aquarium yielded unhelpful results, such as the chemical composition of foxtail millet. Knowing that each of these articles is cataloged using a controlled vocabulary, I looked at the Subject: Thesaurus Term limiter along the left side of the result list. I chose “human animal relationship” and “ethnology.”  Visitor Behavior in Zoos: A Review seemed promising from this batch, and I knew the article could reference more helpful articles for the student to use. Still, I wasn’t happy with the results, so we tried a new database.

Using the same terms in the UW Library Search, Advanced Search option worked better. A 2016 article called Naturalizing Gender through Childhood Socialization Messages in a Zoo, among other results, worked to get the student started on their research. 

If you have a topic you are passionate about, but can’t find information on it, visit us at the Research Help Desk. Your passions inspire us, and we have strategies to help you find resources.


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