Database Search Tips

DATABASES: GENERAL SEARCH TIPS

QUOTATION MARKS

Use quotations to find an exact phrase. The database will search for the words together, in that order. Putting quotes around a phrase directs the database to search for the concept as a whole, rather than looking for the words separately. For example:

“climate change” “body image”

“fast fashion” “East Africa”

“gun control” "Wilma Mankiller"

“Supreme Court” "Hank Aaron"

“environmental racism” "Star Trek"


TRUNCATION (USING AN ASTERISK*)

Truncation finds different forms of the same word, in a single search. In truncation, a symbol is added to the end of a word root. Often, the symbol for truncation is an asterisk * . The asterisk tells the database to search for all forms of that word.

For example, typing censor* in a database finds these results:

censor

censors

censored

censoring

censorship

Why use truncation? If a word has various endings and those variants essentially refer to the same concept, then truncation can save time, as it offers more complete search results in a single search. (Some word roots do not work well with truncation, because the word roots diverge into different concepts–for example, minor* would find minor, minors, minority, minorities, etc. or wom* would find womb, wombat, women, woman, etc.)

NOTE: An asterisk does truncation in the Advanced Search field of most–though not all–databases. If using a truncation symbol such as an asterisk, you may need to use the word “and” between your keyword terms (to avoid an error message). Each database offers a "Help" section which may provide its own specific guidance about truncation.


ADVANCED SEARCHING AND SORTING RESULTS

Most databases provide links or a drop-down menu to sort by relevance or date.

Most databases have a link called Advanced or Advanced Search. Using Advanced Search, you can:

  • limit the date range

  • limit the document type

  • refine your keyword search


SEARCH TIPS FOR CQ RESEARCHER AND SIRS

Tips for CQ Researcher

  • Check that the article is recent (published in the last 5 years or so). Some topics will not have a recent article in CQ Researcher.

  • Do not print the entire report.

  • To get the correct citation, in the citation area at the bottom, click See Alternate Citation Style. Click the MLA Style link. Copy and paste the MLA citation into your bibliography.

Tips for SIRS

  • Using the blue links at the top left, you can sort by date or relevance.

  • Check out the subjects in the See also section at the top of the results. If a subject seems to fit your topic well, then click it for more relevant results.