Skip to main content

ENG W131: Reading, Writing, & Inquiry

Tutorial 4 - Find Materials

Databases & Other Search Tools

Use the information above in the box called "Using Search Terms to Do Research" to understand how to search in the following tools-- 

For reference databases, go back to step 2. Background Information.

Common search tools:

 

Library subscription databases:

Article databases - interdisciplinary

Article databases - specific disciplines/subjects

Use the information to determine which of these databases is most appropriate for your research area. If you don't find a good fit, ask the librarian for a recommendation.

Health databases

News databases - 

E-Journals:

Use the e-journals search to identify journals in our subscriptions that are related to your topic area/discipline.

Subject Guides:

In addition to databases, you may want to try subject guides that are specific to the discipline that you are working in, whether it's your major or whether it's just a field of study that you've chosen to work on for this class. Each subject guide includes links to recommended resources for that field. They will include the information of the subject librarian who put them together. Please feel free to reach out to those librarians for questions or research consultations as well. You can find them by going to the Library home page > Guides > Subject Guides, or click on the link below:

Using Search Terms to Do Research

Search tips:

You've already spent some time trying to think of as many relevant search terms and combinations of terms as you can. This will help you to avoid getting stuck in a rut with the first terms that come to mind.

If you need help in coming up with terms, some library subscription databases have a "Thesaurus" or "Subject Headings" feature that you could try. Look also for th"Help" or "Search Tips" to learn some of the search features specific to that database. Most databases provide similar features, but the methods may vary. 

Some common skills:

  • truncation = To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an * (asterisk). For example, type comput* to find the words computes, computer, computing or computational.
  • searching a phrase = Typically, when a phrase is enclosed by double quotations marks, the exact phrase is searched. For example, "employee retention" searches for the two words as a phrase.
  • Boolean terms (AND, OR, NOT) = Use these terms to connect your keywords. They work best in all capital letters:
    • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel AND Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe
      • In Google and Google Scholar, AND is represented by a space.
    • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college OR university finds results that contain either college or university.
      • In Google and Google Scholar, OR can be written as 'or' or 'OR'.
    • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television NOT cable finds results that contain television but not cable.
      • In Google and Google Scholar, NOT is represented by a dash (-) placed immediately in front of the term to be excluded, ex: jaguars -cars

Putting it all together: You can combine these Boolean terms with truncation and phrase searching to create powerful search statements. For example, if you are interested in what motivates students in higher education, you might try a search that looks like: (college* OR universit* OR "higher education") AND (student* OR undergraduate* OR "graduate student*") AND motivat*

Try the databases' Advanced Search feature, which usually gives you the ability to search multiple fields (author, title, keyword, subject, etc) with one search and may offer additional ways to expand or limit your search. Google Scholar also has some advanced search features found under the dropdown arrow in the search bar.

If your first search strategy does not work, try another approach. Remember that you can also get help from the library. Check out the links below to an academic search engine and some subscription databases.