Shatford Library

Shatford Library

Database Search Tips

1. General or Multiple Subject Databases

If you are not sure where to start, the Mutiple Subject databases are a good place to begin your search for articles.  This guide will include a few basic search tips.  In addition, it is recommended that you read through the search tips or user guides within each specific database (links provided below).  

Boolean Operators and Phrase Searching

The words AND, OR, and NOT have a specific meaning within a database search.  They are used to connect terms or keywords in ways that narrow or broaden a search.  Using AND narows a search by combining terms; it will retrieve documents that use both the search terms you specify. Using OR broadens a search to include results that contain either of the words you type in. OR is a good tool to use when there are several common spellings or synonyms of a word. Using NOT will narrow a search by excluding certain search terms. NOT retrieves documents that contain one, but not the other, of the search terms you enter. To search two or more words together as a phrase, you would place the phrase in quotation marks.

Examples of search strategies:

"medical marijuana" AND legislation

"nuclear energy" AND (safety OR accidents)

Advanced Search

Advanced Search options allow you to be more specific about what you are searching in terms of the field(s) you are searching, the type of article you need, the publication(s) searched or to target a specific subject area.


Commonly used search fields:

  • Abstract
  • Author
  • Document text
  • Publication
  • Subject heading

Look for the option to select

  • Full Text articles
  • Scholarly or Peer reviewed journals
  • Document type such as feature, editorial or review article.
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2. Links to Multiple Subject Database User Guides

Each database provider offers a user guide and search tips from within the database itself.   You will find more specific examples including screen shots and database features.

SIRS Knowledge Source

Project Muse


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3. Subject Specific Databases

If you need to draw from a specific field of study for your research there are several options available from the Databases by Subject page:  
  • The best search strategies will include specific language (search words) unique to these fields.  Look within each database for a thesaurus of terms to use in your searching.
  • The section below includes links to a few subject-specific database user guides.
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4. Subject Specific Database User Guides


Science Full Text Select (WilsonWeb)

Literature Resource Center

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last updated: 07/30/2012 by P. Johnson revision #1