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FYS: Tales of Distant Places (2018): Databases: Specifically, JSTOR

This guide is designed for students in Professor Larsen's 2018 First Year Seminar.


Searching JSTOR

Suppose your professor gives you an assignment to research art along the silk road. Your first step is to determine your KEY TERMS. In this case they are ART and SILK ROAD

If you perform a search for ART you would retrieve almost 1.8 million results. This is way more than you could reasonably evaluate and chances are most of the results will not be on your topic. 

Use AND to narrow your results. This time search ART AND SILK ROAD. Notice your results have dropped to 15k, but we can still do better. 

Let's put "silk road" in quotes - this will search it as a phrase, rather than looking for any entry that has "silk" and "road" in it. Now we're down to about 1,800 results.

You can refine your result even further by using the ADVANCED SEARCH option in the top toolbar..

From here you can choose to NARROW your search by ITEM TYPE such as articles or books. You can also enter a DATE RANGE to find only results in a particular time period. 


You can also NARROW your search to items in a particular DISCIPLINE. To do so click the check box next to the DISCIPLINE you are interested in.


After NARROWING the search to articles in the Asian studies collection we are now down to 449results.


You could then start browsing results. OR how can we narrow this down further? You could:

- add more keywords (like locations or types of art)

- limit the date range

- limit the journals. Professor Larsen specifically recommends: Journal of Asian Studies; Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies; Chinese literature, essays, articles, reviews; Monumenta Serica; Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies



  • bibliographic citation in MLA style (How do I do that? Scroll down to "Article in Scholarly Journal")
  • a short paragraph summarizing the writer’s main points


How do I read a scholarly article?

When you read journal articles, think about how you are going to write a paper based on what you read.

  • Keep in mind your own research question
  • Focus on the information in the article that is relevant to your research question (you may be able to skim over other parts)
  • Question everything you read - not everything is 100% true or correct
  • Think critically about what you read and try to build your own argument based on it

SQ3R Method

Survey, skim, and scan entire reading assignment. Observe titles, subtitles, charts, diagrams, figures, tables. Preview the conclusion and summary and then the abstract/introduction. Think of this step as a “preview” to a movie you are about to watch. 

Question the authors’ purpose and tone. Develop and write out questions about each section of the reading. You’ll want to find the answers as you engage in the reading. Use these questions to guide your reading and your note-taking process.

Read the assignment as thoroughly as possible. Read one section at a time, reflect on what you read, and don’t get too bogged down with details. Search for the main ideas and supporting details. Keep reading!

Recite and recall the information by summarizing and paraphrasing. Did you find the answers to the questions you wrote down earlier?

Review the reading again and over time.