For your writing assignments in this course, you will need a combination of books, periodical articles, and websites. This pathfinder is designed to guide you in your research.
Step 1: Pick Your Terms
What are your specific research interests? Although your overall topic is "fashion culture," using that phrase as a search term is problematic. It's too broad to be effective and it does not have a universally accepted meaning. So think of other terms which identify elements associated with "fashion culture" that can more easily be searched. For instance:
- teens, teenagers, tweens, kids, adolescent, peer group, peers, etc.
- fashion trends, popularity
- coolness, cool
- advertising, advertisements, ads, campaign
- consumerism, consumers
- branding, brands, brand names, logos
- specific company or product names like Nike, Benetton, Calvin Klein, makeup
- models, modeling, model types, specific names of models
- youth market, sales, purchasing behavior, promotion, marketing
- alienation, rebellion
- body image, peer pressure, sexuality, sex appeal
- women, gender, masculinity, homoeroticism, politics, etc.
- race, Latino, hip hop
- rave culture, drugs, heroin chic
- celebrities, celebrity, idols,
- music, skateboarding, surfing, etc.
It's advisable to browse first, gather ideas, and then narrow the topic as you gain a sense of what's available in various places. As you browse, make a list of specific terms or ideas that you can research further.
Step 2: What Kind of Information Do You Want?
Identifying the type of information that you need will greatly help in formulating a search strategy. After your initial browsing, think seriously about your topic and get as specific as you can. Here are some examples of narrow, searchable topics:
- a history of wearing denim and jeans
- types of makeup advertising directed at teenage girls (or African American women)
- an analysis of the influence of Kate Moss written by a scholar
- tween consumers and their purchasing behavior
- high heels--their history and ongoing popularity--from a feminist perspective
Next, think about what you expect to find and where to look.
Statistics come in handy when you want to argue cause and effect. You could use "statistics" in combination with another term like "purchasing power."
Popular culture is readily apparent in pictures and advertising. If you want to see ads targeted toward a particular group, find magazines or websites targeted toward those groups and look through them. Magazines of interest in Otis Library include: Adbusters, Arena, Elle, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN, Face, i-d, Source, Spin, Vanity Fair, Vibe, Vogue. There are also databases of historical ads which you can try such as: Ad Access and AdFlip.
Of course, you will definitely want to find a few articles from journals to substantiate your position.
Step 3: Finding the Materials
To find background information, search in online encyclopedias or dictionaries. For instance, Britannica Online is not a bad place to start if you want to find basic information. On "jeans," for instance, there are 2 short paragraphs about their history and purpose. There are also links to "denim" and the "Levi Strauss." If you search "denim" in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find the earliest use of the word was actually in 1695 in Merchant's Magazine. A fact like this could be just what you need to start off a paper.
To find books, search in the OPAC, the Otis Library Catalog. Remember, this database is relatively small. To begin, use only one term as a keyword. Once you find one book which is interesting, look at the "subject" field for other useful terms.
To find articles, use indexes, also known as subscription databases. In many cases you will find the full-text of the article which was previously published in a journal, magazine, or newspaper. Hint: Start with EBSCO OmniFile or ProQuest, large multidisciplinary databases. Quickly browse general terms and find an article of interest. Look at the "subject" field. The subject terms are sometimes links. If you click on the link, a search of that term will be performed in the subject field only. This will narrow your search considerably. Example.
To find websites, use search engines. Google is one of the largest. Yahoo, which is one of the most popular, is really more of a directory of selected sites. If you want an academic site, you can adding ".edu" to your search terms will bring up sites published by colleges and universities. Of course, you may end up with a course syllabus or student work. Google is so large that you can enter several terms and still get millions of hits. Other more selective and academically-oriented search engines include: Infomine and ipl2.