Top Ten Database Search Tips
These ten tips will assist you in your library research, providing you with effective strategies for performing efficient searches.
Tip One: Think of questions and terms about your topic. These terms will be the ones you want to use in your searches.
Tip Two: Select appropriate databases. Use the Library Database Lists.
Tip Three: Start with a general search. Search using one main concept. Don't search using a long phrase. Databases will retrieve materials that only use that exact phrase.
Tip Four: Use the advanced search mode for complex searching.
Tip Five: Determine relevant subject headings for your topic. Then search on these terms in the subject field.
Tip Six: Use Boolean operators or connectors between search terms to narrow or expand the results of your search. AND and OR are the most common connectors. Using AND between two terms will retrieve materials that mention both terms. Using OR between two terms will retrieve materials that mention either term.
Tip Seven: Truncate search terms to retrieve all variants of a term. Searching on the term plagiar* in ProQuest, will retrieve items that contain the following terms: plagiarism, plagiarist, plagiarize, plagiarists, plagiarizing, etc. Other databases may use different truncation terms such as ?, !, % or $. If in doubt, check the search tips or help feature within the database you are searching.
Tip Eight: Limit your searches. You can limit searches to retrieve only scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. You can limit your search to articles that are available online in full-text from that particular database. You can also limit to particular date ranges or particular journals. Limiting your searches allows you to narrow your search, resulting in a smaller list of more relevant materials.
Tip Nine: Adapt your search strategy. Be flexible in your searching. If one term doesn't work, try a different one. Approach your topic using as many search strategies as you can think of. There will never be one perfect search for your topic. If you retrieve too many articles, try limiting terms to particular fields or adding additional search terms. If you retrieve too few articles, try removing terms or using different terms. If you get stuck, ask a librarian.
Tip Ten: Be cautious in using
the freely available Internet. Because anyone can create
a web page, the quality of information on the web is always in
question. The Internet contains an inordinate amount of repetitive,
superficial information, often of a promotional, persuasive or
biased nature. Searching the web is often very time-consuming
and gives you information of suspect quality. Stick to library
databases and catalogue where you can find high-quality information