Database Search Tips
- Begin your search by reading the various database descriptions to find out which database deals with your subject. Academic Search Premier and MasterFILE Complete cover a wide range of topics.
- Many databases offer tips on how to use the database and how to conduct a search. At the database home page look for links that say Help and/or Search Tips.
- Tutorials are available for EBSCO databases. Or, click the Help button found on the database pages.
- Keywords are words that can appear anywhere in an article including the title or somewhere in the article text. Try to think of the keywords that best describe or relate to your topic.
- A keyword search is the default search in most databases.
- Make sure terms are spelled correctly and that you use other terms that might also apply to or describe your topic. For example, if you want to find articles about cars, you should also use the term automobiles.
- Ask the library staff or your instructor for suggestions of keywords to use.
Most databases allow you to combine two or more keywords in a search using the Boolean operators AND, OR, or NOT. Using Boolean operators will help you to narrow or broaden your search.
- AND links terms together and tells the database that it should find records that have both terms. For example, cars AND trucks will find articles that mention both cars and trucks but not articles that mention only cars or mention only trucks.
- OR will broaden your search and tell the database to find articles mentioning either keyword or both keywords. For example, cars OR trucks will find articles mentioning cars, articles mentioning trucks, or articles mentioning both cars and trucks.
- NOT tells that database to eliminate a word from the search. For example, cars NOT railroad will find articles that deal with cars but not railroad cars.
|AND||Focus or narrow a search||computers AND cars||will retrieve only articles that include the words computers and cars|
|OR||Expand or broaden a search||cars OR automobiles||will retrieve articles that include either cars or automobiles or may include both words|
|NOT||Narrow a search by excluding specific terms.||cars NOT trucks||will retrieve articles that include the word cars but not the word trucks|
- Truncation symbols are like wildcards. They can stand for one letter or several letters in the middle or at the end of a search term. Use them to search for words that have the same stem but different endings or if you are unsure how to spell a word. Common truncation symbols are $, ? and *.
- A keyword search for child? can retrieve articles in which the word child, child's, children, childcare, or childhood appears.
- A keyword search for wom$n can retrieve articles that contain the word woman or women.
- Many databases allow you to limit your search to a specific type of article (peer reviewed, for example), articles published within a certain time frame, articles with images or graphics, or articles from a particular journal.
- When searching a database, look for the options listed under LIMITERS to determine which options are available. For example, in Academic Search Premier, you might apply the following limiters to a hybrid automobiles search: full text, peer reviewed, and articles with images. This means your search will find only articles where the complete text is available in the database. Additionally, all the articles will be from peer reviewed journals, and all the articles will contain some type of graphic image such as a photo of a hybrid car.
- All records in article databases include standardized parts called fields. These standardized fields typically include: title, author, date, keywords, and subject. If you are doing a search for a particular article and know the author's name, the article title or the name and date of the journal article, you can do a field search.
- In most databases, you will need to be in the advanced search mode to do a field search.
- In addition to author, title, and journal name, you may be able to search for a company name, publisher, or specific volume and issue. You can see which searchable fields are available in the dropdown menu.
- Use Google search tips to refine your search and get better results.