Searching Electronic Databases
1. Select appropriate databases:
Select an appropriate database
for your research topic. To help you decide which databases you should
choose, you can read more about the individual
databases. Remember, you will need passwords to access the databases
if you are off campus. Passwords can be obtained at the Library circulation
desk or via email.
2. Search tips for databases:
are the important terms, concepts, or ideas that are identified
as search terms.
example: You are seeking information on stem cell research and
the controversy surrounding this issue.
stem cells and controversy
example: You are interested in finding out about possible treatment
options for pediatric AIDS.
pediatric and treatment and (AIDS or HIV)
|What are Boolean operators?
The Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT
tell computer databases and search engines
which way to conduct searches that best suit user's needs.
| The AND operator
specify that terms must appear in the items you retrieve by using
the AND operator.
(It's best to capitalize Boolean operators because some search engines
For example: gender AND crime
of the above search statements will find documents containing
both terms, gender and crime.
You can use the AND operator more than once in a search.
For example: gender AND crime AND
|The OR operator
Using the OR operator states a preference
that either or both of your search terms appear in your results.
For example: college OR university
Both of the above search statements will retrieve
documents with either the term college or university or both terms,
college and university. You can use the OR operator more than
once in a search.
For example: college OR university OR
|The NOT operator
The NOT operator forbids the word after it
from appearing in the items resulting from your search.
For example: Mexico NOT New Mexico
Both of the above search statements
will retrieve documents containing the term Mexico but not containing
the term New Mexico.
Truncation is a method of including all the
possible ending forms of a word through the use of a symbol. It
is an effective tool for expanding a search that has retrieved
too few results. For example, consider the word environment, which
has several possible variations. To truncate this word, type the
word environment followed by the appropriate truncation symbol
for the particular database:
These are some of the terms that will be searched:
Various symbols are used for truncation, depending
on the database you are searching. In the library databases, MasterFile
Premier and InfoTrac, for example, the truncation symbol (sometimes
referred to as a wildcard symbol) is an *. In other databases
it may be a $ sign, a # mark, or even a + sign. Read the database
help information to find out which symbol is used to indicate
truncation, and how it can be applied.
sample search in InfoTrac Expanded Academic
A symbol within a word provides for all possible
variants inside a word or word stem. The most commonly used symbol
for internal truncation is ? or #. For example, a search for wom?n
will retrieve both woman and
|PARENTHESES OR NESTING
Use parentheses to clarify relationships between
search terms when using the OR operator. For example:
(television OR mass media) AND violence
combines "violence" with either "television"
or "mass media".
(jam OR preserves OR jelly) and recipe
combines "recipe" with either "jam" or "jelly"
3. Select keywords to use for your search based on
important concepts or questions in your research. Then construct searches
using Boolean operators and truncation when possible.
Examples of using keywords, Boolean operators,
- What effect does sleep have on memory?
sleep AND memory
- I need statistics on child abuse in North
child abuse AND
North Carolina AND statistic*
- How can I find criticism on Shirley Jackson's
short story "The Lottery?"
Shirley Jackson AND
The Lottery AND critic*
- Where can I find articles on women's education
Wom?n AND educat*
- I need information on teenage pregnancy.
(teenagers OR adolescents)
- I need articles on the Titanic, the actual
ship, not the film.
Titanic NOT (film