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Russian 361: Russian and Slavic Folklore

Library resources for the study of Russian and Slavic folk beliefs and customs

Create a Search Strategy


Choose search terms

Start building your search strategy by determining search terms. Search terms or keywords can be people, events, theories, concepts, ideas, periods, movements, eras, places etc. First, use terms that describe the concepts in your research question, then think of synonyms of those terms. You can consult a reference text, such as a subject encyclopedia or dictionary, for additional background information and to identify additional terms.

For example, if your research question is: What folk traditions (I.e. charms, rituals, herbs) did pre-Christian pagan Slavic women use to support fertility and healthy pregnancies? How do these traditions persist today?

If you don't have a research question yet, you will need to do some "pre-search" to narrow your focus and create your research question. For example, you may be interested in researching works about folk traditions of pre-Christian pagan Slavic women more broadly.

You may have to test a few terms to see which terms retrieve the most relevant results. You can look at the subjects or keywords listed in the "details" section of your results for additional terms to try.

Boolean operators


Venn diagrams of Boolean Operators, AND, OR, and NOT, created by a librarian

Cecelia Vetter, CC BY-SA 4.0

AND includes both terms

Example: "fertility" AND "folk traditions"

OR includes either term

Example: "pagan" OR "pre-Christian"

NOT excludes term*

Example: "folk traditions" NOT "Russian Orthodox"

*Note that NOT may exclude results with the term even if a result contains a search term you want included

Database syntax

Using database syntax can help you refine your search. For example using "double quotations" will narrow searches by searching only for that specific phrase rather than each individual term. Using truncation (*) or wildcard (?) can expand your search by expanding the scope of a single term.

Symbol Use Function Example
"..." Double quotation marks Searches exact phrase "folk traditions"
* truncation Adds none or more characters rit* searches rite, rites, ritual, ritually, etc
? wildcard Adds none or one character wom?n searches "woman" and "women"

Different database platforms (i.e. EBSCO, ProQuest) may use different syntax. Review a more complete list of database syntax.

Building a search strategy


A search strategy (or search string) are the keywords, terms, and syntax used in your search. A typical search strategy includes 2-4 concepts, but may include more keywords.

For example, an initial search for information on female artists who participated in the federal arts project might be:

Slavic AND "folk traditions" AND pregnancy

But you may want to expand your search to get results on specific folk traditions and words related to pregnancy, but also narrow results to pagan Slavs. So instead you might try:

(slavic OR slav) AND (pre-christian OR pagan) AND (mother* OR child* OR pregnan* OR birth* OR fertility) AND (folk* OR tradition* OR charm* OR amulet* OR rit*)

Determine where to search

Determine where to search based on your research need.

  • Search@UW - search UWM and all UW system libraries for books, reference materials, database articles, open access articles, and more
  • Databases - can include many subjects (like Academic Search Complete), or more specific to the humanities (JSTOR, Project Muse, Humanities International Complete)
  • Google Scholar

How to Search@UW

Search for Sources in Languages other than English

For example: You'd like to find books in Spanish about Pablo Picasso to check out from the UWM Libraries and request from other UW-System Libraries. 

  1. Start with an Advanced Search in Search@UW
  2. Enter your search terms or keywords in the "Any Field" box (in this case: Pablo Picasso)
  3. Use the "Language" drop down menu to select your language

This first results list includes:

  • Translations of books that were originally written in Spanish and are now translated into English or another foreign language
  • Books with Spanish and (usually) English side-by-side translations
  • Books written in Spanish​

To further refine your search to include only untranslated books (i.e., books in Spanish):

  1. You must "Exclude" other languages
  2. The final results list includes only books written in Spanish that are available at the UWM Libraries and other UW-System Libraries

Using Google Scholar

Link Google Scholar to UWM Libraries

Access materials available through UWM Libraries by linking UWM Libraries to Google Scholar in "Library Links" under Settings.


Google scholar menu showing the settings option


Under settings, select "Library links" and search for Milwaukee, then check the "University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee - Get IT! (UWM Libraries) box.


Image of Google Scholar Settings highlighting "library links". Milwaukee is in the search bar, showing UW-Milwaukee and other Milwaukee area libraries


When you search Google Scholar, you will see access options through UWM Libraries to the right of the results. When you select these results, you will be able to access the full text.


Image of Google Scholar search results, highlighting the "Get IT! (UWM Libraries)" link with a red box.