The Collaborative Project:Women’s Westward Travels and Narratives
I also saw the keyword search screen as extremely valuable, since it (unlike the Primary and Advanced search screens) allowed me to search the description field, which I knew was a potential goldmine of textual information. Thus, I start out by running two different strategies; a Primary Search with designated fields to populate, and a Keyword Search.
I began by plugging Mrs./Miss in the author field, and 1820:1920 in the date field. I thought this starting point would give me a rough estimate of items written by women within that date span. The result was 1216 hits. Okay, I thought, off to a good start, now I just need to add specifics to the search.
I decided to add and mix phrases and words from the Keywords list into the title field. I could keep track of “good words” to use by referring to the Search History list. I would keep using the mrs./miss in the author field, as that obviously helped the search to specify female authors. Since I already had some knowledge of women’s narratives of that genre, I was already equipped with phrases and words that were often used in the title field. Words such as “notes” and “memoirs” and “tour” come to mind.
For example I put diar*/narrative* in the title field to see what specific to first hand accounts would come up. I also organized my mix and match Keywords list into 5 distinct semantic groups. Group one consisted of words to connote female author, group two were words for narratives and diaries, group three were hot words such as “territory” and “west”. Group four were words like “travel” and “adventure”. And finally, the extensive group five, which was every geographical term I could think of. As a general rule, I used the asterisk after all applicable words from this list, hence west*, memo*, narrative*, etc.
Running a keyword search with several similar terms together with the Boolean “/” came up with too many results. Since I could not use two different Boolean searches at one time (such as (Mrs./Miss) AND (diar*/narrative*) I could not cull only female authors. So, I decided to run separate searches using terms that connote female that might be used in the description field along with similar terms such as narratives and diaries (such as Mrs&journal). There, I would have to check the relevancy of the results. This type of search pulled up many irrelevant titles that had nothing to do with women writing about their travel experiences. So, I decided to keep the two initial keywords and add one at a time such phrases as “west*” or “journey*”, etc. Upon running a few of these types of searches, trading various keywords, I decided this was not an efficient search strategy and I would get better results with the Primary Search screen. Upon doing one last effort at keyword, I decided just to put in “woman&pioneer&diaries” as terms. Though only 3 titles came up, 2 of those were 100% relevant. One title was not an actual diary; it was about pioneer women’s accounts. Even so, I decided to continue to experiment with different combinations of phrases with this “shoot from the hip” approach. Another thing I did at this point was to read the description and comment field, to search for other possible future keywords. There I discovered “she” and “her” as excellent words to use in future Keyword Searches.