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Information Literacy

Study of Women and Gender

The Program for the Study of Women and Gender examines gender, race, class and sexuality as important and simultaneous aspects of social worlds and human lives. As an interdisciplinary endeavor, the study of women and gender shows students how different academic disciplines view the operation of gender in the labor market, the family, political systems and cultural production. Research and theory emerge from these everyday realities and feminist theory, in turn, informs our analysis of political choices. All majors in the Study of Women and Gender are expected to be capable of doing research across disciplines, and of bringing different disciplinary methodologies together in interdisciplinary efforts.  By the time they graduate, all majors should understand how scholars in the field conduct research and how they communicate the results of their work to colleagues. One way of describing this understanding is “information literacy” – i.e. the ability to conceptualize what information is needed combined with the skills necessary to locate, evaluate, and effectively and ethically use this information.

Writing Intensive Classes

Before entering upon work in their major, students should take at least one writing intensive class. Students who have taken writing intensive classes should have learned the following skills:

  • To define and articulate the need for information and identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information beyond the web search engine [AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to identify and locate the two most appropriate types of information needed to complete their assignment.]
  • To articulate and apply initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources [AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to distinguish between popular and scholarly materials in a variety of formats such as books, periodical literature, and websites.]
  • To acknowledge and cite the sources used in conducting research for an assignment using an acceptable style guide [AT THE VERY LEAST – students will be able to locate the appropriate style guide and emergency online help.]

These skills may be regarded by all students as a base for further study. Help is available through the Neilson Library Reference Department's Ask a Librarian options.

Any student contemplating SWG as a major is encouraged to take one of the writing intensive courses cross-listed with SWG, including a number of First Year Seminars. Recent offerings have included FYS 108: Curry: Gender, Race, Sexuality and Empire; FYS 114 Turning Points; FYS 175 Love Stories; FYS 179 Rebellious Women; and FYS 180 Cleopatra: Histories, Fictions, Fantasies.

Beginning SWG Majors

There is one common required course, SWG 150 , which provides a chance to learn particular research skills. In SWG 150: Introduction to the Study of Women and Gender, students will

  • Focus on major debates in women’s and gender studies
  • Learn to recognize interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship
  • Begin to acquire the skill of textual close reading (of written, visual and sound texts)
  • Examine a variety of historical sources including written documents (primary and secondary sources), audio, visual and archival materials
  • Distinguish among popular, scholarly, and primary sources

Basic Sources for SWG majors


Five College Library Catalog

Search for books and more in the online catalog.


Extensive catalog (OCLC) of books, serials, media, web resources, and more worldwide.


Core Databases for Journals/Articles

Gender Studies Database [EBSCO]
1972 to present with some earlier coverage

Combines Women's Studies International and Men's Studies Database, with added coverage on sexual diversity issues; includes a wide array of scholarly and popular sources.

GenderWatch [ProQuest]
1970 to present

Full text publications on the impact of gender across a broad spectrum of subject areas.

LGBT Life with Full Text [EBSCO]

Core journals on gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender issues including civil liberties, culture, work, family, history, psychology, religion, sociology, etc.



Encyclopedia of Gender and Society [Sage]

Provides users with a “gender lens” on society by focusing on significant gender scholarship within commonly recognized areas of social research.

Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History in America [Gale]

A three-volume survey of more than 400 years of lesbian and gay history and culture in the United States, presented through over 500 alphabetically arranged entries. Coverage includes people, public policy, economics, social issues, identities, and culture, among many others. For students, researchers, and general readers.

Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender [Gale]

Addresses issues of sex and gender at the personal and the social level; examines issues of identity, status, class, ethnicity, race, and nation; of sexuality and the body; of social institutions and the structures of representation.

Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World [Sage]

Delves into contexts of being female in the 21st century,  including the following academic disciplinary contexts: arts and media; business and economics; criminal justice; education; family studies; health; media; military; politics; science and technology; sports; religion; and women in different cultures and countries.


Core Primary Sources

Discovering American Women's History Online

Access to digital collections of primary sources (photos, letters, diaries, artifacts, etc.) that document the history of women in the U.S.

Gerritsen Collection
1543 -1945

An international collection of books, pamphlets and periodicals on feminism & the women's rights movement worldwide.

Lily: A Temperance and Feminist Newspaper

The first newspaper for women (ed. Amelia Bloomer 1849-1854, then Mary Birdsall 1855-1856). Initial coverage of temperance issues later expanded to include articles on child-bearing, education, and women’s rights, with many articles by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Women and Social Movements - Basic Edition [Alexander Street]

Primary source documents on women's social movements from 1600 to 2000.

Women and Social Movements International [Alexander Street]
1840 to present

Digital primary sources, including conference proceedings, reports of international women's organizations, publications & web pages of women's organizations, plus letters, diaries & memoirs of women active internationally since the mid-19th century.

Women Working: 1870-1930 (Harvard University Library)

Fully-digitized versions of books, manuscripts, pamphlets, consumer trade catalogs and photographs exploring women's roles in the US economy between the Civil War and the Great Depression.


Primary Websites

Selected Women and Gender Resources on the World Wide Web

Maintained by the University of Wisconsin System Women's Studies Librarian

Women's Studies Database

Created and maintained by University of Maryland, College Park.

Women's Studies/Women's Issues Resource Sites
1994 to present

Created and maintained by Joan Korenman, University of Maryland, Baltimore.

WSSLINKS Women's Studies Section (ACRL)

Maintained by the Association of College and Research Libraries Women's Studies Section.

Intermediate-Level Study in the Major

Because SWG is an interdisciplinary major, students become familiar with the research practices of multiple disciplines. At the intermediate level, students learn to hone specific research skills in disciplines such as history, literature and social science disciplines, while extending the introduction they had to interdisciplinary work in SWG 150.  Three additional courses are taken with the SWG prefix, including at least one at the 300 level.

Skills acquired at this level that are common across disciplines include the ability to:

  • Identify and address an information need using a variety of sources.
  • Evaluate a source for appropriateness using predefined criteria, and justify why a source is appropriate
  • Construct an annotated bibliography
  • Recognize the limitations of web search engines for academic research
  • Use the Five College Library Catalog to locate known items, perform basic subject searches, and access print reserves
  • Access basic article databases to locate scholarly articles (see list above)
  • Apply questions to a specific text
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it
  • Appropriately acknowledge print and non-print sources using a standard citation format (e.g. MLA, Chicago or APA)


  • Engage in critical analysis, with an emphasis on writing interpretive essays on literature
  • Use literary critical terms and various methodologies of interpretation and argumentation
  • Become more perceptive readers and persuasive writers
  • Use critical essays and historical sources to contextualize the literary texts


  • Locate primary sources available in the Five Colleges or beyond from references in secondary sources
  • Become familiar with digitized primary sources such as Women and Social Movements, Women Working and others (
  • Assess primary sources, determining what constitutes evidence, opinion, or contradiction; and recognize the varying perspectives of participants in the same event
  • Explore the methods relevant to historical documents
  • Conduct oral histories

Social Science

  • Engage in qualitative and quantitative research material to interpret and analyze human behavior
  • Read and interpret social scientific explanations of gender, culture and identity
  • Use data sources such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), census and survey data, economic data, semi-structured interviews, life history interviews
  • Learn ethical practices for conducting social science research
  • Conduct legal research and learn to read primary sources of law and secondary authorities

Interdisciplinary Research and Intersectional Analysis

Some of our intermediate courses are grounded firmly in interdisciplinary methods that emphasize intersectional analysis; in these courses, students will:

  • Perform close reading of various kinds of texts (visual, written and sound)
  • Conduct research using a variety of methods such as historical, literary, social science, and community based research methods
  • Examine race, gender, sexuality, class, region and other sites of identification as interdependent and fundamental aspects of the social world
  • Use library databases
  • Create original arguments applying philosophical/theoretical concepts introduced in class
  • Recognize and execute both descriptive scholarly writing and analysis organized through the provision of a thesis or argument

Intermediate/Advanced Sources for SWG Majors


Academic Search Premier 
1965 to present

Covers the social sciences, humanities, arts, and sciences.

Alternative Press Index and Archive [EBSCO]
1969 to present

Indexes hundreds of alternative, radical and left periodicals, newspapers and magazines covering cultural, economic, political & social change.

Alternative Press Watch [ProQuest]
1995 to present

Full text database for 130+ newspapers, magazines and journals from alternative and independent presses.

America: History & Life [EBSCO]
1953 to present

Extensive index to 1,700 journals, books, and dissertations on American and Canadian history, popular culture, anthropology, sociology, economics, education, and politics.

Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index
1990 to present

Covers journal articles, book reviews, and essays in books about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages.

Historical Abstracts [EBSCO]
1956 to present

Covers history after 1450, excluding U.S. and Canada; lists articles, books, book reviews, collections, and dissertations.

Humanities Abstracts [EBSCO]
1984 to present

Abstracts of articles, book reviews, interviews, obituaries, fiction, drama, poetry, and reviews of plays, television, and radio from 465+ sources.

Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective [EBSCO]

Indexes 1,200 scholarly journals and specialized magazines in the social sciences and humanities; with citations to book reviews.


Back issues excluding most recent 2-5 years, includes journals in the Study of Women and Gender

LexisNexis Academic
Coverage varies by title

Covers a wide range of news, business, legal, and reference information. Includes federal and state laws and cases.

Project Muse
(recent issues)

Arts and humanities including journals in the Study of Women and Gender

Social Sciences Abstracts [EBSCO]
1983 to present

Abstracts and some full text of articles from 550+ sources in anthropology, political science, economics, psychology, geography, and sociology; with interviews, obituaries, and book reviews.

Vogue Archive [ProQuest]

Entire run of the US edition, showcasing the work of the greatest designers, photographers, stylists & illustrators of the 20th & 21st centuries. Up until the 1920s, the focus was on society, not fashion.

Journal Locator

Search by journal title for full text online, print holdings, and connect to Interlibrary Loan




One million digital images on art, architecture, and archaeology from many cultures and time periods, with strengths in European, American and Asian cultures.

Book Review Digest Plus [EBSCO]
1983 to present

Reviews of English-language fiction and nonfiction books from U. S., Canadian, and British periodicals.

Books in Print
1979 to present

Information on all books (scholarly, popular, adult, juvenile, reprint, etc.) on all subjects currently published and distributed in the U.S. With out-of-print titles from 1979 to the present.

Google Books

Indexes the full text of a growing number of books. For some books complete text is online; for others only a small portion. No printing or downloading.

Women Artists Archives National Directory (WAAND)
1945 to present

Web directory to US archival collections of primary source materials by and about women visual artists active in the U.S. since 1945


Primary Sources

Defining Gender [AM Digital]
1450 - 1910

Primary sources from British & European archives on conduct & politeness; domesticity & family; consumption & leisure; education & sensibility; the body.

Everyday Life and Women in America [AM Digital]
c. 1800 - 1920

Rare books, pamphlets & periodicals relating to US social & cultural history; strong on conduct & household management; contrasts urban & rural cultures

Feminism in Cuba, 1898-1958 [Archives Unbound]



Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin and the Daughters of Bilitis [Archives Unbound]


The Gay Peoples Union Collection

Digital copies of primary source materials documenting GPU and Milwaukee's gay liberation movement.

Witchcraft in Europe and America [Archives Unbound]



Biography and Genealogy

American National Biography

Reliable scholarly biographies of major figures in American history.

Biography in Context MLIN

Biographies from dictionaries, encyclopedias, and magazines. (Formerly Biography Resource Center.)

Biography Index Past and Present
1946 to present

Indexes articles, books, and autobiographies for people from antiquity to the present and from all fields and nationalities.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

50,000 biographies of the men and women who shaped all aspects of Britain's past, from the 4th century BC to the year 2001. 2nd edition, with illustrations.

Ancestry (Library Edition)

Census, vital, church, court & immigration records for the US & UK, plus material on other areas. Major components: US federal census 1790-1930 (incl. manuscript returns); historical maps; Social Security Death Index; etc.



Sophia Smith Collection

 Women's and family papers, archives of organizations, women's periodicals, photographs, posters, other one-of-a-kind documents related to women; especially strong in 19th & 20th century US reform movements and feminism.

Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College


National Archives for Black Women’s History


Jewish Women’s Archives

Collection with focus on American Jewish women includes online encyclopedia, lesson plans and educational materials, online exhibits, oral histories, book and film guides, and user contributed content 

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke


Seminars/300 Level Electives

At the advanced level, SWG majors are expected to be expert in doing research in at least one discipline, familiar with the other areas, and able to engage interdisciplinary projects. Students are expected to be strong writers, to be familiar with using library databases to find scholarly and popular references, and to be able to critique and cross-reference sources. For example, in a 300 level course in the SWG major a student might be asked to trace a writer’s research (that is, to look at some of the sources he/she used for the work), or to chronicle the intellectual reception of a work. The expectation at this level is a finer and deeper exploration of ideas based on strong research skills.

At this level, students will:

  • Show a range of critical thinking across various genres of expression (scholarly essays and monographs, plays, poems, essays, novels)
  • Integrate varying bodies of knowledge (historical, sociological, literary, and philosophical)
  • Exhibit and practice writing and oral presentation skills
  • Engage in a research project that involves work with primary and secondary sources


SWG courses assess students’ attainment of information literacy in various ways, appropriate to the level of the course. Class discussions and papers call upon students to demonstrate interpretive and analytic skills appropriate to the course topic and level. Their performance in these areas may directly or indirectly determine their grades. Through formal grading and informal feedback during office hours, instructors and librarians help students develop critical awareness of their own abilities.

Assignments requiring students to demonstrate and take advantage of information literacy vary depending on the skills involved. In general, SWG 150 devotes more explicit attention to acquiring, developing and testing basic skills; while more advanced courses assume students have reached a basic level of competency and can deploy information literacy skills independently. As students develop, they will be expected to recognize and execute both descriptive scholarly writing and analysis organized through the provision of a thesis or argument. In all cases, library staff is available to assist students and faculty members in devising, completing, and assessing such work.

Ethical Issues

Plagiarism is a serious violation of the College’s Honor Code. When using someone else’s words, ideas, or arguments, students must acknowledge their sources. It is important to identify and attribute all sources of new ideas, except for commonly shared knowledge, such as dates and facts found in encyclopedias and dictionaries. For more information on the College Honor Code, look here:

Students should be familiar with ethical issues, standards and process for gathering information with human subjects.