We’ve talked a lot about how Gale Artemis: Literary Sources can help your students take their research to new levels. Topic Finder is often highlighted as a major reason for this type of success (in addition to the ability to cross-search, obviously).
While saying Topic Finder is a powerful tool may seem enticing, we thought showing might be better.
As you may or may not know, Topic Finder is a tool that takes your search term, searches within the available content, and creates visual connections to that search. It offers a way to think about your search differently and open new gateways based on search results and key terms.
Let’s get right to it.
As an English major, I wrote many essays and research papers. I couldn’t even tell you the exact number, but trust me on this one. While my professors generally gave me a prompt for a paper, I often still had to figure out a topic. I also faced other times, like writing my thesis, where I pretty much had free rein to write whatever I wanted. For instance, my thesis had to be using a book that was categorized as metafiction.
While having the ability to choose your own topic sounds liberating, it can also be quite the daunting task. I usually figured out my topic in due time, but I sure could have used something like Topic Finder to expedite the process.
I particularly had trouble with Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. You may think that this massive novel is filled with topic possibilities, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but it was hard for me to narrow down my options. It gave me a lot of angles to attack, but no clear path.
When I go into Gale Artemis: Literary Sources and search “Anna Karenina,” then click on Topic Finder, I am presented with a wheel of words.
In this instance, Topic Finder searches through all of my literary resources and locates key terms within search results for Anna Karenina. It finds the terms with the most results and breaks them down further from there.
As you can see in the picture below, my search yields plenty of results. Looking at the wheel, I’m almost instantaneously drawn to Levin and Love. The love story between Levin and Kitty in Anna Karenina was something that drew me in from the start of the novel and always kept my interest.
Right away, I can start thinking about topics for a paper. Instead of thinking about the novel from a broad view, I’m now thinking about looking at it in terms of love or Levin. Clicking on Levin, I can see there are 40 results within the context of the work. Still, that may be a little too broad.
If I go a step further from Levin, I see things like Death and Family. Both options narrow down my results further, but neither really catches my eye.
Looking at Love, I notice a few options, but the one that really interests me is Russians. When reading this novel, Russia was always in the back of my mind, but I really didn’t pay too much attention to it. Now, scanning the list of results, I see a result titled, “Wives and Mistresses: Love against Death.”
Briefly scanning the article, I see it discusses Anna and Levin as counterparts in terms of their stories (hooray Levin!). Within the article, I also see a few mentions of Russia, which is now just as interesting to me. For instance, it makes reference to how in Italy, Anna’s dependency satisfies her whereas in Russia that same dependency becomes vicious.
The article mentions a few other differences about Russia that really intrigues me and leads me to a topic I’d like to dive deeper into. Based on using Topic Finder and looking through the results, if I were to write a paper today, I’d write about location in Anna Karenina and its impact on love.
I’m now actually really curious to see what the differences might be and what I else I can find. I’m not sure I would have found this topic if I hadn’t used the Topic Finder. Writing this blog has made me miss my English classes because using this tool has given me a genuine spark.
Whether you’re doing research or your students are, Topic Finder is a valuable tool within Gale Artemis: Literary Sources. I might have to spend more time later looking at other essays I could have written. For now, I’ll just have to imagine the possibilities your students have this semester!
Have you or your students have used Topic Finder? I’d encourage you to comment and tell me about it. I’m curious as to what new topics have come up while using this fascinating tool!
About the Author
Robert is a left-handed person living in a right-handed world. He is showing English majors that it is possible to get a job in the “real world” with an English degree. He likes giant carrots