WRTG: Identity Research

Cultural Identities: At Home

Americans as Americans

     One of the most useful Subject Headings for American cultural identity is
National characteristics, American

     Alternatively, enter United States as a Subject with these standard subheadings:

--Politics and government
--Social Conditions
--Social life and Customs

United States--Civilization  [subdivided by time period]
United States--Politics and government  [subdivided by time period]
United States--Religion  [subdivided by time period]
United States--Social conditions  [subdivided by time period]
United States--Social life and customs  [subdivided by time period]

     Also try a Subject search on a cultural topic or issue that interests you and look for United States as a subheading:

Social classes--United States
Political culture--United States
Civil rights--United States
Christianity and culture--United States
Language and culture--United States
Sports--United States
Sex role--United States
Television broadcasting--United States
Youth--United States
Conservatism--United States
Gays--United States
Fundamentalism--United States
Marriage--United States
Consumers--United States
Violence--United States
Wealth--United States
Women's rights--United States
Nationalism--United States

Americans: Race, Ethnicity, Religion, Class

     As a nation of immigrant populations, the United States encompasses many distinct cultural subgroups, most of them searchable as Subjects by putting the appropriate continent/region/country name in front of the word “Americans.”
     And check especially for subheadings such as “Cultural assimilation,” Ethnic identity,” “Race identity,” “Social conditions,” and “Social life and customs.”

African Americans--Race identity
African Americans--Social conditions
African Americans--Social life and customs
Arab Americans
Arab Americans--Ethnic identity
Asian Americans
Asian Americans--Ethnic identity
Hispanic Americans
Hispanic Americans--Ethnic identity
Hispanic Americans--Cultural assimilation
Puerto Ricans--United States
Puerto Ricans--United States--Ethnic identity
Puerto Ricans--United States--Intellectual life
Puerto Ricans--United States--Social conditions
Puerto Ricans--United States--Social life and customs
Cuban Americans 
Cuban Americans--Intellectual life
Cuban Americans--Politics and government
Cuban Americans--Social conditions
Cuban Americans--Social life and customs
Caribbean Americans--Ethnic identity
Caribbean Americans--Intellectual life
Caribbean Americans--Race identity
Caribbean Americans--Social conditions
Haitians--United States
Haitian Americans--Ethnic identity
Jamaican Americans--Intellectual life
Scandinavian Americans
Irish Americans
Italian Americans
Italian Americans--Social life and customs
Chinese Americans
Chinese Americans--Ethnic identity
Japanese Americans
Japanese Americans--Ethnic identity
German Americans
Russian Americans
Russian Americans--Social conditions
East Indian Americans [India]
East Indian Americans--Ethnic identity
Mexican Americans
Mexican Americans--Ethnic identity
Jews--United States
Jews--United States--Identity
Jews--United States--Cultural assimilation
Muslims--United States
Muslims--United States--Ethnic identity
Hindus--United States
Indians of North America
Indians of North America--Ethnic Identity
Indians of North America--Cultural assimilation
Racially mixed people--Race identity--United States

Group identity--United States
Group identity--Political aspects--United States
Identity politics
Minorities--United States
Minorities--United States--Social conditions
Ethnicity--United States
United States--Ethnic relations
Race awareness--United States
Race relations--United States
United States--Race relations
Racism--United States
Immigrants--United States
Immigrants--United States--Social conditions
United States--Emigration and immigration
Assimilation (Sociology)--United States
Acculturation--United States
Multiculturalism--United States
Intercultural communication--United States
Pluralism (Social sciences) United States

Culture conflict--United States
Discrimination--United States
Discrimination in education--United States
Discrimination in employment--United States
Discrimination in housing--United States
Discrimination in law enforcement--United States
Discrimination in medical care--United States
Segregation in education--United States
Segregation--United States
Hate speech
Hate speech--United States
     Also see Ubject headings for "Hate Groups"  and "Gay Marriage & Military Service" in my Social Issues Research Guide.

Poor--United States
Middle class--United States
Wealth--United States
Social classes--United States

Cultural Identities: Abroad

International Identities

     One of the most useful Subject Heading is “National characteristics,” followed by the adjective form of the country name. For example:

National characteristics, Chinese
National characteristics, Spanish
National characteristics, Australian
National characteristics, Mexican
National characteristics, Irish

     Alternatively, enter the country’s name as a Subject search—Italy, Poland, Brazil, Japan, Puerto Rico, Iran—and then scan the materials in these standard country subheadings:
--Politics and government
--Social Conditions
--Social life and Customs

Italy--Social conditions
Japan--Social life and customs
Puerto Rico--Politics and government

     The Subject Heading “Ethnology” refers to cultural anthropology and may be subdivided by country or continent.  Most of the material here evaluates culture at a broader level than the nation-state, so in addition to looking for your country as a subheading, try the region or continent as a subheading:

Ethnology--Africa, Sub-Saharan

     Also try a Subject search on the name of any relevant ethnic/racial group and scan the available subheadings:


     Finally, try a Subject search on a cultural topic or issue that interests you and look for country subheadings:

Women’s rights--Iran
Civil rights--China
Popular music--Argentina
Human rights--Guatemala
Television broadcasting---Great Britain
Sex role--India

The Cultural Identity of Objects

Note: The best Subject Headings for research on objects and what they say about either individuals or cultures will mostly depend on the object in question--simple tools, complex machines, domestic furnishings, articles of clothing, implements and appliances: the list is almost endless.  But below are some broad Headings that may be of use.

Material culture
Material culture--History
Material culture--Social aspects
Material culture--United States
Technology--Social aspects
Technological innovations
Diffusion of innovations
Technology and civilization
Personal belongings
Consumption (Economics)--Social aspects
Brand name products

IC Library Databases (Articles)


Personality and Individual Differences--the journal of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences, is available full text from 1995 to the present in the ScienceDirect  database, as is the Journal of Research in Personality.  
Identity: An international Journal of Theory and Research and Self and Identity are both available full text (2001-one year ago) from Academic Search Premier , as are Journal of Personality (1945-one year ago) and Journal of Personality Assessment (1975-one year ago).   

Recommended Databases

     General OneFile  is the most user friendly of our comprehensive databases--covering virtually any topic from a wide range of disciplinary angles. Use the default Subject search to find an appropriate Subject Heading for your topic and then open the "Subdivisions" link underneath. Among the Headings available here are "Identity," "Self," "Personality," "Personality Traits," "Personality Tests," "Social Identity," and "Cultural Identity."  For specific cultural groups note that standard subdivisions include “Behavior,” “Beliefs,” “Cultural Policy,” “Portrayals” (how presented in literature & media), “Social Aspects,” and “Social Policy.”
     If the best available Subdivision is still too broad, open the set of articles and add Keywords in the "Search within these Results" slot at the upper left.
     User Advisory: When viewing any retrieval set in General OneFile, note that you are first viewing only the Magazines and must click on the "Academic Journals" or "News" tabs to see those resources.

     ProQuest Research Library : is another comprehensive database with substantial full text.  Use the "Thesaurus" (above the search slots) to preview what Subject Headings are available.  Subect searching can be a more efficient way to search than with only Keywords, since it guarantees that the articles retrieved actually be about the Subject--not just use a particular word.  Among the Subject Headings available in ProQuest are "Identity," "Personality," and "Personality Traits," as well as “Cultural Identity,” and “Cultural Values.” 
     Note that to the right of your search results you can limit your retrieval by "Source Type" (including Magazines, Newspapers, Scholarly Journals),  "Document Type," (including Cover Story, Editorial, or Interview), "Document Feature" (including Photographs, Illustrations), and "Location."
     Above each set of articles you retrieve ProQuest will display related Subject searches to help either broaden or narrow your focus.
     User Advisory: ProQuest is fussy about entering Subject searches in the designated search slot. If your subject is a person, enter the name--last name first--in the "Person" slot; if a named group of any kind--Microsoft, the Catholic Church, Radiohead, the New York Mets--enter it in "Co/Org"; if a place enter it in "Location." 

     PsycINFO : The American Psychological Association use their own Subject vocabulary (called "Descriptors"), so a visit to the "Thesaurus" below the search slots is a good idea. Note: the Descriptor used for identity here is “Self-concept,”  although there are descriptors for "Ego Identity," "Social Identity," Professional Identity," and "Ethnic Identity," as well as "Self-perception," "Personality," and "Individual Differences."  For cultural identities try combining any of these with Descriptors such as “Culture,” “Racial and ethnic groups,” “Ethnology,” “Acculturation,” or “Multiculturalism.”

     SocINDEX with Full Text : As the name implies, an excellent database for social identity and cultural issues. Click on the "Subject Terms" link above the search slots to find which Subject Headings will work here—for instance browse the Subject headings beginning with the word “Cultural,” which include “Cultural identity,” “Cultural exclusion,” “Cultural codes,” “Cultural fusion,” “Cultural imperialism,” “Cultural prejudices,” and “Cultural values.” Double click any Heading for a list of broader, narrower, and related Subject Terms. Also available are "Identity," "Personality," "Self," and "Self-perception."

     JSTOR  has very good full-text coverage of scholarly journals. There is no Subject searching, but you can enter effective keyword searches. A preliminary scan of the retrievals for--culture and identity-- will give you a good sense of the range of topics available here and of the necessity for including more specific keywords.
JSTOR access to journal articles usually begins 2-4 years prior to the present--so don't look for many articles from the last couple of years--but coverage always extends back to the first issue of each journal--in some cases into the 19th century and beyond. So if you want to target a time period, just set a “Date Range.”

    Project Muse , although a smaller database, it complements JSTOR. LIke JSTOR it provides 100% full text of mostly scholarly journals, but its coverage is entirely current--mainly spanning the last 10-15 years.  Muse uses a "black box" search approach--you enter your search terms in one slot with no designated field options--but in addition to slapping in keywords, you can use the same Library of Congress Subject Headings that work in the Library catalog (see above under "Subject Searches").  This broad approach to searching tends to generate large retrievals, so it's best to be as specific as possible.  And note--once you have a retrieval set, you can add more search terms by clicking "Modify Search" at the top.

     Philosopher's Index : No full text, but the “ArticleLinker” arrows at the end of each citation will connect to scholarly full text in our other databases--making this an efficient one-stop search for Descriptors such as "Identity," "Identity Theory," "Personality," "Personality Theory," "Self," "Self-actualization," "Self perception," "Cultural Identity," and "Ethnic Identity."

     ScienceDirect : Don't be fooled by the name: "Science" includes the social sciences and there are vast resources here on identity issues.  Because it’s a large database with a great deal of full text, the absence of Subject searching means that your Keyword searches will often retrieve large sets of articles, many of which mention but don’t discuss your search term(s). One way around this is to limit your initial search to the “Abstract Title Keyword” field. Once you have found an article that sounds on-target, click the “Related Articles” link beneath the citation This will open a range of articles on the same topic.
     User Advisory: Don't settle for the default "Quick Search"--open "Search" for the full range of options. Among thse you can uncheck "All books," which is recommended if you're looking for articles.  And if you open the "Dates" drop-down menu you'll find a much wider range of options than the default 10 year span.
     For specific identity issues try ,LGBT life with Full Text , GenderWatch , and Ethnic NewsWatch

Contact Us

picture of Dr. Brian Saunders

Dr. Brian Saunders

Humanities Librarian
(607) 274-1198

Search Argos

Personal Identity

Web Resources

Recommended Web Sites

Note: The best Web sources will depend on what aspect of identity and/or culture interests you, but the sites below should be helpful across a range of topics.

Personal identity:
  • Personality Project: based at the Psychology Department at Northwestern University, the Project's site is a gateway to online resources.

Cultural Identities:

Web Directories

     Web Directories differ from search engines like Google in that all the online resources have been selected and annotated by editors, thereby promising a much higher degree of quality control. 

Web Search Engines

  Google Advanced Search: When doing research on the Web, always use the Adanced Search version of Google. This not only provides more flexibility in entering search terms, but more importantly it allows you to target the Web domains that are likely to provide the most authoritative information.
Under "Need More Tools?" you will find the "Search within a site or domain" slot. You may enter only one domain at a time, but it's worth targeting each of the three domains likely to supply the best information: colleges and universities (enter the "edu" tag), nonprofit organizations (enter the "org" tag), and the United States government (enter the "gov" tag).

Citation Help

MLA Citation

MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. Here is my guide to the latest (2016) update of the MLA style.