Databases: General Search Tips

Quotation Marks

Use quotations to find an exact phrase. 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:

“body image”

“global warming”

“East Africa”

“gun control”

“Supreme Court”

“stand your ground”

“Star Wars”


Truncation (using an asterisk *)

Try using truncation to get better search results. Truncation means that a symbol is added to the end of a word root. Typically, the symbol for truncation is an asterisk * . The asterisk tells the database to search for all forms of that word.

search box showing censor*For example, if you type censor* into a database search box, then you will get results which include any variant of the word censor.

<––– This search will provide documents with any of these words:

                                                                   censor

                                                                   censors

                                                                   censored

                                                                   censoring

                                                                   censorship

NOTE: An asterisk does truncation in the Advanced Search field of most, but 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).

Advanced Search 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