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Searching Databases: Tips for Searching Databases

Tips to help you get the best results from your database searches.

Getting Better Search Results

Use the Advanced Search screen in the database and enter keywords that best express the major concepts of your topic.

Use the boolean connectors AND, OR, NOT to combine your search terms.

Consider any criteria you want search results to meet:

  • type of publication: book chapter, magazine article,  journal article, newspaper article, website, etc.
  • article from a refereed or scholarly publication
  • limited to specific dates of publication
  • illustrations, photographs, diagrams or charts included
  • articles containing references
  • full-text articles

Too Many Search Results?

If your searches result in a very large number of records, many of which are not relevant to your topic, you need to refine your search.  Here are some suggestions for narrowing your search and getting better results:

  • Use quotation marks to keep words in a phrase together:       "sleep disorders"
  • Combine search terms or phrases using the term AND:           infants AND nutrition
  • Apply limits to the search, such as date of publication:            2000 - 2010
  • Use controlled vocabulary terms or subject headings:              "motion pictures" instead of movies

Too Few Search Results?

If your searches result in no or few records on your topic, you need to broaden your search.  Here are some suggestions for broadening your search and getting more search results:

  • Use fewer words:                                            "substance abuse" instead of drug and alcohol abuse
  • Use broader terms:                                          meteors instead of meteor showers
  • Combine synonyms using OR:                          doctors OR physicians
  • remove any limiters:                                         no date, language, format, or other limits
  • Truncate to search variations on a word:            child* will search for child, child's, childish, children, childrens', etc.