Monday, July 7, 2008


This week marks the 2008 Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, made world-famous by Ernest Hemingway's description of the running of the bulls in his novel "The Sun Also Rises." Watching news coverage of crazy men getting trampled by stampeding other crazy men (oh, and bulls) always reminds me of my own time as a bullfighter!

[cue the Wayne's World flashback sound effect and wavy image]
At the end of my year-long student exchange in Mexico, I spent a week at a bullfighting ranch where I got to try out my matador skills with a real bull. He was only 3 months old but those little horns caused quite a bruise.
[flash forward to the present]

Anyway, this week's festivities sparked my interest to find other literature that mentions bullfighting. Since I saw my first bullfight in Mexico City, I decided to check out the Latino Literature database to see what it could offer. (If you're not on campus, you'll need to authenticate your browser session by logging into on the Marriott Library homepage to see this database.) It's filled with fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays by Latina and Latino writers working in the United States. Because it's a full-text database, I can search for even a single instance of my topic within a work of literature.

My first search for bullfighting was disappointing: only 10 results. But after looking in the Help tab menu, I saw that this database supports both Boolean and truncation searching.

Boolean searching includes using AND (to connect different concepts, such as bullfighting AND Spain), as well as OR (to connect synonyms and related concepts, such as bullfighter OR matador OR toreador).

Truncation searching means that I can search for a root term and get results based on all its variations. The most common way is to end the root term with an asterisk (such as bullfight* which will bring back all results with the words bullfight, bullfighting, bullfighter and bullfighters).

A search in Latino Literature for the truncated bullfight* brings back 69 results (yay!). But a complex search also using the Boolean operator OR -- I searched for matador OR toreador OR bullfight* -- brought back 93 results. ¡Olé! These results include a nice mix between fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The Latino Literature database has recently converted to a new interface but has not yet moved the plays over. A duplicate search in the old database found 21 plays, too.

The best part about learning these two search strategies -- Boolean and truncation -- for the Latino Literature database is they can be used in most every database the Marriott Library subscribes to. ¡Andale pues!

No comments: