FWS G. Mackin Fall 2022
Librarian: Eileen Daly-Boas
Brainstorm terms and concepts related to your subject. A 5-minute free-writing exercise can help. One set of question that can help you organize your ideas is asking questions that journalists ask:
Why: freedom OR “human rights” OR equality
Who: disab* OR blind OR deaf OR “hard of hearing” OR “deaf and dumb” OR amputee (note: disab*l* to capture disabled, disability, disabilities)
What: philosophy OR ethics (we can skip this for now)
How: Douglass OR abolitionists
First search, remembering it’s a first try, looks like this.
Any field contains: freedom OR “human rights” OR equality
Any field contains: disab* OR blind OR deaf OR “hard of hearing” OR “deaf and dumb” OR amputee
Any field contains: Douglass OR abolitionists
First search: 22,000. Let’s filter the results so we only see results that are articles and peer-reviewed. The filters are in the column on the left “Refine Your Results”
When we use these two filters, and then click “remember filters” so we can keep them even when we edit our search, the results are here, there are 6,700 results.
This isn’t too bad, there are 3 or 4 articles that look promising. (1, 4, and 9 on the list seem close)
We can use the subject filters on the left-hand column to limit further - choosing articles that have “slavery” as a subject heading seems to look a little better, here.
If we want Douglass and abolitionists to be more prominent in the search, we can pull the dropdown next to that line to limit results to the Abstract/Description, like this.
Pick one that sounds good - click on the title to look at the abstract:
Here’s the abstract:
“With the exception of a small number of cultural studies of the domestic slave trade, the enslaved body, and slave health, practically all the historical scholarship on slavery presumes that bondpeople were sound.4 Only two recent dissertations by Dea H. Boster and Jenifer L. Barclay, of which the former's has been published, have been devoted exclusively to the study of slaves with disabilities. Using disability as a distinct category of analysis, these works have shed light on the lives of slaves with a range of physical and mental impairments and explored the ways that race and disability entered antebellum discourses of law, medicine, abolitionism, and proslavery thought. By the late 1830s, proslavery intellectuals had begun to embrace paternalism as an ideological antidote to radical abolitionists' condemnations of slavery's horrors.”
This might be a good beginning, even though it doesn’t focus on Douglass, it is about race and disability in Douglass’ time.
Sometimes, the article will show us more terms that will help us edit our search to make it better. And sometimes, the article will cite others and they can be helpful.
9. Encyclopedias and subject databases can help, too.
If your topic is one that is more general, there’s a good chance that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy will be a good place to start. It is like a Wikipedia, except it’s written by and for people studying philosophy. Each entry has a full bibliography, and explains the theory or argument or philosopher’s work, and can be a great way to jumpstart your search.
A subject-specific database can help search for articles that are only in the discipline/subject you’re interested in.
For Philosophy, PhilPapers online is a good place to start.
Once you have one (or more) useful article on a topic, use the references at the end of article to find more sources on your topic using our Citation Search tool. This helps you see what was written previous to your current article, often called citing backward.
Use Google Scholar to see who has cited your article after it was published. This helps you see what has been written after your article was published, citing forward.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License by Justina Elmore, University of Rochester.