Database Searching Tips

Searching for an article :

  • Each database has its own rules. Before you begin your search check the help screens to see how the database works and what it contains.
  • Define your topic. Be as specific as possible. Example: Does violence in computer games cause aggression in children?
  • Identify key words or phrases in your topic. Example: violence, computer games, aggression, children
  • Prepare your search statement.
    • To connect separate concepts use the connector AND. Example: violence and computer games and aggression and children
    • Eliminate minor words such as: a, an, the, with. Example: internet, not the internet
    • Use all lowercase letters. Example: nintendo, not Nintendo
    • Search for a phrase by enclosing the words in quotes. Example: "computer games"
  • Refine your search.
    • If you get no hits:
      • Include both singular and plural forms of words and variant endings by using a truncation symbol. Example: aggress* will retrieve the words aggression, aggressive, aggressiveness
      • Include similar or related terms by using the connector OR. Example: aggression or anger
      • Combine AND and OR connectors. In order for the database to understand your search, you must 'nest' the terms connected with OR by enclosing them in parentheses. Example: violence and computer games and (aggression or anger) and children
    • Search a more general topic. Do so by eliminating one or more concepts. Example: violence and "computer games" and children, as opposed to, violence and "computer games" and children and aggression
    • Make use of search terms, descriptors and subject headings. If you find an article appropriate to your topic, check which search terms, descriptors or subject headings have been used to describe it. Do a search using these terms to find more specific articles.
  • If you get too many hits:
    • Use limiters. Many databases have limiters such as full text, peer reviewed, publication date and material type which can be used to filter the results of your search.
    • Connect additional search terms with connector AND. Example: "computer games" and aggression, as opposed to, "computer games"
    • To eliminate concepts use the connector NOT. Example: violence and "computer games" not (movies or television or films)