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New York City History: Keywords

In the tab names, SS stands for Secondary Source, PS stands for Primary Source


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Searching for images

Historical Photos of NYC*

Searching these collections is best done by cross streets, since exact addresses are rarely included in the metadata. For example, to search for images of the New York Public Library’s main Schwarzman building, one would search 42nd and Fifth. Numbered Streets are usually numeric while numbered Avenues are usually spelled out, one of NYC’s many nuances in place names.

Neighborhood names may not be included and may also have changed over time. At the time of this post, there was only one result for “Hell's Kitchen”, but many photos of the neighborhood could be found by searching for cross streets such as Ninth & 39th or Eighth & 35th. 

In some cases, searching by landmark or building name will also yield results, but only if the name of the building was included in the metadata. For example, a search for “Empire State Building” delivers hundreds of images. A less well known building may not have its name included in the metadata: “Tenement Museum” yields no results, but its cross streets Orchard & Delancey yield dozens.

*Information from: Nigro, Carmen. "How to Find Historical Photos of New York City." The New York  Public Library. Last modified July 30, 2014. Accessed February 23, 2016.

Search Strategy Builder

This tool is designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. Cut and paste the search string results into the search box of a library database or search engine.

  Concept 1 and Concept 2 and Concept 3
Name your concepts here    
Search terms Search terms Search terms
List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words, or "short phrases" in quotes













Cut and paste the results above into the search box of a library database or search engine.
Developed by the University of Arizona Libraries and is used under a Creative Commons License.

Creating Search Strings

Boolean Operators - The Boolean operators And, Or, and Not logically combine search terms:

  • Limit results - And - A record must match both the term before and the term after the operator to be included in the search results.
  • Expand results - Or - A record can match either the term before or the term after the operator, or both, to be included in the search results.
  • Limit results - Not - A record must match the term before the operator, but not the term after the operator, to be included in the search results. 

First Steps

Before you start searching

  • think about your topic
  • break down your topic into concepts or keywords
  • think of synonyms for each keyword or concept
  • keep your mind open to new or alternative words that describe your topic.
  • Identifying search terms (keywords)
  • Be aware of the different scripts a foreign word may have (al-Qaeda, al-Qa‘ida, al-Qaidah, etc.)

Identifying Keywords

The keywords you use can have a profound impact on the results of your research. Using the “right” words will speed up the research process, while the “wrong” words can bring to it to a halt.

Before you can begin searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be found by scanning: 

  • Your research questions
  • Articles found from background research
  • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend.

Search Strategies

Break down your question into keywords:

How is youth culture depicted in Chinese cinema?

Think of synonyms: 

youth, teen*, adolescent, child*

cinema, film, movies

Chinese, China

Connect synonym using OR combine terms using AND:

(youth OR teen* OR adolescent OR child*) AND (cinema OR film OR movies) AND (China OR Chinese)

Spence Research Tutorial

The Spence School Research Tutorial

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