Mohave Community College Libraries

How to Search Databases

Choosing keywords is a critical part of the search process. This is because keywords also function as your Search Terms, which are what you type into the search box of a database.

Unlike Google and other internet search engines that utilize Natural Language Searching, databases are designed to retrieve results that contain every word that has been typed into a search box.

Unless an article or other source contains all the keywords in the search box, the database will not retrieve it as a result. This is why selection of your keywords is very important (more on this in the next section). 

Keywords are the main ideas represented in your research topic or question and/or the main words you would use to describe the topic to another person.

The main steps in the keyword process are:

1. Determine which words or phrases represent the main concepts of your research question

2. Determine synonyms or related words for those concepts

3. Determine which words you are going to combine into a search


Step 1: Read the research question below; the keywords/phrases have been underlined.

  • What is the relationship between children drinking diet soda and weight gain?

Step 2: Determine synonyms or related words/phrases. If you are having trouble, try looking the term up in a thesaurus or encyclopedia to help you generate a list.

Children

Diet Soda

Weight Gain

adolescent

low calorie soda

obesity

youths

diet beverage

overweight

minors

diet pop

increased body mass

Step 3: Determine which words you are going to use for your first search. After you have generated a list, you can then pick and choose which words you are going to use to conduct your first search.

However, you are not quite ready to search on a library database yet, because you need to combine your keywords with Boolean Operators in order to conduct a successful search.

Information Literacy Tutorial by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at guides.library.uwm.edu

  • Boolean Searching: Type of search that allows for fewer, but more focused, search results. In other words a Boolean search can filter out information that is irrelevant for your purposes.

 

  • Boolean Operators: Words used to connect and define relationships between search terms. Use Boolean operators to narrow or broaden your search. The three primary Boolean Operators are explained below.

 

  • Natural Language Searching:  Means you use regular everyday language to ask a question (as if you were asking a person). Internet search engines (such as Google) utilize natural language searching. You cannot use natural language searching in databases.

There are three primary Boolean Operators that databases utilize: AND, OR, NOT.

  • Typing the operator AND between search terms means that you will results that contain both of the search terms.

Using this operator between search terms will decrease (narrow) the number of results you retrieve

  • Typing the operator OR between search terms means that you will retrieve results that contain at least one of the search terms.

Using this operator between search terms will increase (broaden) the number of results you retrieve.

  • Typing the operator NOT before a search term means that you will exclude that word from your results. Meaning results that contains that search term will not show up.

You may want to use this operator to exclude words or terms that are not relevant to your search result or to exclude words that have multiple meanings.

Phrase Searching and Truncation

  • Phrase Searching: Use phrase searching to keep words together in a search so the database will search the phrase and not the individual words.

Example: "diet soda" will yield results that contain the exact phrase "diet soda." If you did not use the quotation marks, you could get results that talk about these terms separately i.e. the database would search "diet" AND "soda" instead.

  • Truncation: Use truncation on root words to retrieve any form of that word by putting an asterisk at the end of any root word.

Example: teen* will yield results that contain teen, teens, teenagers, and teenage

MCC Libraries provides access to EBSCO, databases, Gale databases, and several other databases on our A to Z Database ListRead the description below each database before searching. 

Note: EBSCO databases will begin on the "Advanced Search" screen when opened.

Use Boolean Search methods (1. Choose Keywords and 2. Use Boolean Operators) to find articles in all databases.

MCC Libraries provides access to EBSCO, databases, Gale databases, and several other databases on our A to Z Database List. Read the description below each database before searching.

Use Boolean Search Methods (1. Choose Keywords and 2. Use Boolean Operators) to find articles in all databases.

Picking a Research Topic:


Gale Tools: (applicable to any Gale database)

MCC Libraries provides access to EBSCO, databases, Gale databases, and several other databases on our A to Z Database List. Read the description below each database before searching.

Use Boolean Search Methods (1. Choose Keywords and 2. Use Boolean Operators) to find articles in all databases.

CQ Researcher: