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Database Search Tips

This guide provides general techniques and tips to help you search databases more effectively.

Using Limiters

All databases will allow you to limit your search in a variety of ways, filtering out the stuff you don't need.  For example: 

  • date range
  • peer reviewed/scholarly
  • popular
  • exclude book reviews
  • full text only

If you aren't given limiting options on the basic search screen, try clicking on the "Advanced Search" link.  If you start your search without adding limiters, some databases, like EBSCOhost and ProQuest, allow you to apply limiters from your results screen.  The more limiters you apply, the fewer number of results you will get.

Searching by Field

"Fields" are the various pieces of information that library databases keep for each item that they search. For every article or book, things like title, author, subject terms, abstract, date, etc. are recorded in their own field.  Each time you search for a keyword, the database looks for it in those fields.

Field searching lets you tell a database exactly where you want your keywords to be found.  For example, if you are looking for a book written by Mark Twain instead of about Mark Twain, telling the search engine to search in the Author field will give you better results.

In a typical basic search, all fields for all items are searched at the same time.  But most databases will allow you to search the fields individually. This is helpful when:

  • you're  looking for a specific author
  • you remember just a word or two of a title
  • you want to pinpoint a particular subject
  • you want articles that specifically mention your keywords in their abstract

To find field search options, look for a drop-down menu next to the search box in any database.   If you don't see it on the basic search screen, look for an "advanced search" link.

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