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ASIA 326 - Critical Approaches to Manga and Anime


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Research Help

Can't find articles on your topic? Not sure which database to use?

Email Tomoko Kitayama Yen, Japanese Studies Librarian at:

Have an urgent question after hours? Online chat reference service, staffed by B.C. academic librarians, is available at AskAway (see the left column on this page).

Effective Keywords for Effective Searching

To start a research paper, you need to begin looking for sources. For an effective search, you need to use keywords, which are the building blocks of academic searching. There are two steps to good keyword formation:

  • Pinpoint the main concepts that compose your question
  • Expand each of those terms by brainstorming synonyms, related words and/or variant spellings.

Keep in mind the following categories as you think of the main concepts for your research paper:

  • People (e.g. Tezuka Osamu, Studio Ghibli)
  • Place (e.g. Tokyo, Canada) 
  • Date Range (e.g. 21st century, postwar period)
  • Events / Related Issues
  • Subjects / Concepts

For example, your research paper may involve Osamu Tezuka's treatment of death in his works.What are the 2-3 main ideas or concepts for this topic? For this example, the main concepts may be:

Tezuka Osamu AND Death

Then think of the different ways to describe these concepts. Includes related terms as well.

Tezuka Osamu  AND  Death

Osamu Tezuka           Passing

Mushi Pro                  Demise


If your topic is very specific and you're not finding many resources, you may need to look at broader concepts. Then, you could support your research findings by extrapolating the broad information to your specific topic.

Search Techniques


Library of Congress Japanese Romanization Table
Libraries in North America follow these rules

訓令式 Romanization
Used in Japanese institutions.

Although Hepburn romanization in now standard, older materials sometimes have variant romanization. You may miss finding something if you use a different romanization in your search, so try using "OR" searches or the following.

Wildcards and Truncation

Wildcards and truncation may be used in order to catch romanization and spacing issues. 


Allows you to search for terms that could have more than one ending.
Truncation Example: kaguya? = "kaguya hime" OR "kaguyahime"


allows you to substitute 0 or more letters in a word.
Wildcard Example: Ra?po = "Rampo" OR "Ranpo"

Note: the question mark is used for the UBC Library catalogue, but other databases have other truncation/wildcard symbols (e.g. UBC Summon). See this wiki page for a more comprehensive guide.

Combining Concepts

Use Boolean Logic, which uses special terms called 'operators,' to make your keyword searching powerful.

  • Boolean OR: This operator serves to broaden a search by capturing synonyms or variant spellings of a term. If you want to find any of the terms in the search, use the Boolean operator OR.

Example: "kaguya hime" OR kaguyahime

  • Boolean AND: This operator operator narrows a search by capturing two or more ideas or concepts. If you want to find both of the following words in the search, use the Boolean operator AND.

Example: 社会主義 AND 日本

The following diagram describes how the Boolean operators, AND, OR and NOT, work in database searching.