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J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library

Library & Research 101: Search in Databases

This guide has been created to provide you with some tips and tricks for finding research and materials and to help you navigate the library's resources and services.

Search in Databases

A database is a great place to do your research, especially if looking for scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles. Databases are a collection of resources, and may include scholarly journals, research articles, datasets, trade journals, news articles, etc. They can be interdisciplinary or specific to one field. 

Navigate to the boxes below for additional information: 

Librarians are available to answer your questions. Click on the Ask Us bubble for FAQs and contact options (chat, email, text, phone).

Frequently Asked Questions

Top 5 Library FAQ's:

Find Databases by Title

To search for a specific database, enter the title with either Search or Databases A-Z selected. 


Find Databases by Subject

If you don't know the database by title, you can browse the database list by subject. Make sure Databases A-Z is selected and then click on Additional Search Options under the search bar. Select a subject from the dropdown menu and then choose a database from the list. 

Read the description of the databases to determine which would be most appropriate for your needs. Librarians have selected "Best Bets" that appear at the top of the page and are often good places to start. 




Search in Databases

To search within a database enter in your search terms in the search box. Click on "Advanced Search" and add as many rows as you would like to make your search more specific. 




SEARCH TIPS: These can be applied in the library search, databases, and Google/ Google Scholar. There may be minimal differences across databases but using these will generally work. 

  • When searching using the library search and databases, avoid typing your whole question in (like in Google). Instead try to break your research question into the most important keywords and related terms. 

  • Combine your search terms with an AND, OR, or NOT. 
  • Use quotation marks to search that exact phrase. Only search results with those words in that order will appear. Example: "autonomous robot"
  • Use parentheses around to like terms with an OR in between. (fish OR dolphin). In order of operations the database will search "autonomous robot" and underwater and fish OR "autonomous robot" and underwater and dolphin. 
  • Use the asterisk as a truncation symbol. Example: develop* will return results with the words develop, development, developing, develops, etc. 


Narrowing Your Topic and/or Search

When does a topic and/or search need to be narrowed? 

  • number of search results is a good indicator, if you get more than a few thousand results a narrower topic is recommended
  • take into consideration the scope of your research: a 3-5 page paper may require a more narrow topic than a 10-15 page paper

How do you narrow down a topic?

  • Pick one aspect of your topic: cancer > specific cancer > Glioblastoma multiforme (specific type of brain tumor) 
  • Pick a population or environmental factor: glioblastoma multiforme in adults 

How do you narrow down a search?

  • Choose a subject specific database: ProQuest material sciences and engineering instead of ProQuest
  • Pick a source type: scholarly article is a good one
  • Narrow by date
  • Narrow by subject