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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding Journal Articles for Theatre Research

This guide is an introduction (or a refresher) to searching for, accessing, and evaluating articles for theatre research.

Structuring Your Search

To craft an effective search, keep these tricks in mind:

Boolean Searching: A search technique that uses Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) to limit or widen your search. Series of three Venn diagrams illustrating the different results retrieved by searches using Boolean Operators AND, OR, NOT. AND retrieves results for two terms together, represented by the intersection of the two circles. OR retrieves results for the entirety of the Venn diagram: each term on its own or both together. NOT excludes an entire circle of the Venn diagram (in this case, the circle on the right along with the overlapping section in the middle).

  • AND narrows your results by linking two terms together (a search for "Native American" AND "drama" will only bring up results that include both of those words)
  • OR widens your search by bringing up results that have one term or another (a search for "accent" OR "dialect" will bring up results that include either term individually or both together)
  • NOT restricts your search by excluding the term directly following it (a search for "production design" NOT "sound" can be useful if you are researching aspects of production design that don't include sound design). It's a great operator to use if your search is retrieving a lot of irrelevant results!

Quotation Marks: If you want to search for a phrase (like "costume design" or "musical theater"), put quotation marks around it to keep your terms together. Using quotation marks will only retrieve results that include your terms in the exact order you specified. 

Using Limits

In most databases, you'll see a menu of options to the left of your search results that will let you further narrow your search. You can use these options to limit your results by publication date, content type (like performance reviews, academic journals, or magazines), and language, among others. Some databases will even let you check a box to say that you only want results from peer-reviewed journals (for more on peer-review and evaluating scholarly sources, check out the Is It Scholarly? tab of this guide).

Quick Tips

If you aren't getting good results, try to broaden your search. Once you find a promising article or two, see what key words or subjects are used to classify that article and try using those in a new search to find similar materials.