Database Tips and Tricks
Databases are some of the most powerful research tools at your disposal, so it’s important that you know how to get the most out of them!
Before we get started, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Vary your vocabulary — Databases only search the words you type, so if you are looking for information about “cars,” also try searching words like “automobile” and “vehicle.”
- Check your spelling — Because databases only search the words you type, spelling matters! Databases don’t always correct spelling errors like Google does.
- Be specific — Searching for information about something general, like “medicine,” will yield thousands of results. It’s better to choose a specific topic, like “pharmaceuticals” or “emergency care” for the best results.
- Don’t give up — If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Just because your first search didn’t give you what you needed, doesn’t mean that using other search terms won’t either.
How to Search a Database
- Select the database you want to search.
- Databases automatically offer a single search bar known as a “Basic Search.” This is a simple search for one word or phrase.
- Databases also offer the option of an “Advanced Search.” This search allows you to combine multiple search terms in separate search boxes that can be toggled to search different areas, such as “Title,” “Author,” and “Keyword.”
- Your search can also be limited with “Search Options” to narrow down specific publication dates, types of publications, and full-text availability.
- Selecting “Full-text” ensures that your results will be quickly accessible and ready for instant download.
- Some databases have what is called a “Controlled Vocabulary.” This means that there are predefined subject terms that articles can be “tagged” with (rather like #hashtags). Using these subject terms can give you very accurate results. To access these, look for the “Subject Terms” button in the database, usually in the top menu.
- Within the Subject Terms list, you can browse Subjects, Places, and People. Type your search and click “Browse.” Then check the ones you want to add to your search. Notice that some terms don’t have a check box – these are not authorized terms; they include instructions on what terms to use though. Once you have checked your terms, click “Add” and click “Search.”
- Regardless of which search option you choose, once you click “Search” you will be shown a results page. You can further narrow your results by using the options in the left side bar:
- Databases provided by other vendors have similar set ups: