Answered By: Sara H.
Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023     Views: 250

To search the library for articles on your topic, first understand the difference between searching on the Web and searching in library databases.

  • Many devices and search engines, like Google, use artificial intelligence or algorithms to anticipate and interpret what you say or type.
  • Library databases simply match what you type in the search box to see if the same combination of letters and symbols is found somewhere in their indexed content. 

1) To search databases effectively, first decide on your topic, and make sure it is specific enough to meet your assignment requirements.To narrow down your topic, consider adding demographics (e.g., age, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, culture, etc), location (e.g., city, state, region, country, continent), and/or time period (e.g., specific date, year, decade, century).

2) Then, identify the keywords that researchers in that field might use to describe the topic (for example, a scientist might say "febrile" instead of "fever"). For help with identifying keywords, try using a concept chart and know that synonyms are helpful for searching (e.g., teens, tweens, teenagers, adolescents).

3) Once you have identified your keywords, learn to combine your search terms with Boolean Operators like AND, OR and NOT. This helps make your searches very precise, so that you get relevant results from the library databases. For example, some search combinations might look like these:

(infants OR babies OR newborns) AND seizures AND (addiction OR "substance abuse")

(seniors OR elderly OR "older adults") AND housing AND Southwest

("social media" OR gaming OR "screen time") AND children AND (depression OR anxiety) 

4) Finally, decide where to search. OneSearch, on the library home page, searches most of our databases simultaneously. This means, in order to get relevant results from journals in your subject area, your searches must be very precise, like the examples above.

If, instead, you decide to search subject-specific databases, filled with articles from journals in your subject area, you search combinations can usually be a little less complicated. For example, if you are searching for articles in one of our nursing-specific databases, you don't need to include ("nurse" OR "nursing") in your keywords.

To find library databases in your subject area, click Subject Guides on the library homepage, and choose the guide that best fits your topic. The relevant databases will be listed on the landing page of that guide. Choose a database, and enter your keyword combinations to search for articles on your topic.

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