Step 1: Select a Database
Search the library’s databases to find articles on your topic. If you are working from off-campus, follow the instructions for off-campus access to library databases.
Selecting the right database is important for locating articles appropriate for your topic. You can choose to view all databases alphabetically by title, or use our Library Research Guides to view resources by subject. Read the database descriptions and select one that is likely to contain articles on your topic.
Step 2: Formulate a Search Strategy
Divide your research question into keywords joined by the Boolean operator AND. For example, if your research question is “What impact does mass media have on body image among adolescents?”, then your search statement might look something like this:
mass media AND body image AND adolescents
The next step depends on whether you received too few or too many results. If you received too few, you may want to broaden your search results. If you received too many, you may want to narrow your search results.
Step 3: Broaden Your Results
To broaden your search, add synonyms and related words joined by the Boolean operator OR.
(mass media OR television OR motion pictures)
(body image OR self image OR self esteem)
(adolescents OR teenagers OR children)
You can also broaden your search results by using truncation. Truncation allows you to retrieve articles that contain variant endings of your keyword by adding a truncation, or wildcard, symbol. For example:
teen* retrieves teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers, etc.
Different databases use different symbols for truncation (*, ?, #, etc.). Check your database’s “Help” page to see which symbol it uses to denote truncation.
Step 4: Narrow Your Results
By default, most databases will search all fields of the database record. If you want to narrow your results, try searching for your keywords only in the subject or abstract of the article. Your database might also have advanced options known as “limiters” to help you limit your search to specific document types, publication dates, scholarly or non-scholarly publications, etc.
Step 5: Retrieving Full Text
Some databases will include the full text of an articles Others will only contain citations or abstracts. If full text is not available from one particular database, it may be available from another. Or it could be something that the library only has in print. Click to see additional options for locating the article.
Still Have Questions?
Above all, keep in mind that searching is process of trial and error. It is often necessary to do several searches for a topic while continually modifying your strategy based on the results retrieved. If need assistance locating articles, don’t hesitate to contact us.