5. Finding Articles: How can you search for articles?
Most article databases make use of Boolean operators,
limiters, and subject terms.
Using these allows you to be very precise in your searching.
Since an article database tends to have much less content than the open web,
you should start out with some fewer terms than you would use in a web search
engine, like Google or Yahoo!.
Below are some search strategies you may want to use when searching (note -
the availability of these will vary between databases). See the tutorials
and movies on the side menu for more tips and examples.
Use AND to find items mentioning
cats AND dogs
cats AND dogs AND rabbits
Use OR to find items
mentioning at least one of the
Spain OR France
Spain OR France OR Italy
Use NOT (sometimes AND NOT)
between two terms to find items without
the second term:
cookies NOT chocolate
president NOT Garfield
Many databases will let you use limits (also called
filters) to be a bit more
specific about your search. You may need to use a databases
Advanced Search to make use of these limits.
Some databases allow limits
both before and after searching (these may differ).
Peer-reviewed articles only
Full-text contained in database
Less common limiters:
Specific article type
Country of publication
Pre vs. Post search limits:
Example of pre-search limits (from Compendex):
Example of post-search limits (from Academic Search
As stated earlier, many databases assign subjects to articles.
Many of these have a highly developed controlled vocabulary.
You will rarely need to learn this vocabulary.
Often, the easiest way to find subject terms is to do a general/keyword
search in the database and look at the subject terms in records for items that
are good matches for your topic.
Try this strategy to find useful subject headings. Remember it by thinking of
search your topic
a relevant item from the results
subject terms relevant to your topic
using these subject terms
Note that some resources will allow you to simply click on those subject
terms to perform a search. Others may require you to copy/paste into
a search and choose a subject field.
Specify a field
Many databases allow you to specify in what fields you want a term to appear.
You can thus do some very specific searching, such as checking for terms only in
the abstract or title.
Some databases allow you to choose from many
fields in which you can search for terms. An
example from the Agricola database:
Other common options (more advanced)
What it Does
Most Common Symbol
Makes sure two or more terms are found in the exact
"Salem witch trials"
Truncation or stemming
Look for words with a common root. Be sure not
to use too few terms before the truncation character.
mathematic* searches for mathematics, mathematical,
pol* searches for
politics, pole, police, Polk, polite, etc.
Look for terms with a single letter variation (often
best used for inside words)
wom?n searches for woman and women
Jam?? searches for
James, Jamie, etc.
Group like terms when mixing Boolean operators
(cats OR dogs) AND chocolate
(Sweden OR Denmark) AND (king* OR queen* OR monarch*)
As you'll note from the examples, you may be able to mix these
advanced techniques. See the database being used for more
Look for the Help section if you are
having trouble searching the database. You may also ask a
librarian for assistance.