Skip to main content

Research Assistance

Search Terms

Searching in a database is different than searching in Google.  You cannot enter full questions into a database like you can Google.  Research questions have to be broken down into search terms (also called keywords) that are entered into the database's search bars.  

The search terms used in a search query is important because they determine what results are pulled.  Therefore, it is important to play around with different search terms.  Using synonyms is a good practice to use because databases are indexed with certain words.  Unlike Google, databases do not contain slang words; using a database's thesaurus or index is helpful to find the right search terms.  

Quotation marks can be placed around search terms, especially if there is more than one, in order to keep them together as a concept or idea.  For example, placing quotation marks around "spiritual disciplines" will keep those two words together as a phrase and pull articles with that phrase in the title or abstract.  

Finding an Article from a Citation

When conducting research, it is a wise practice to look at the reference of the sources you use.  You might be able to find some of those sources to use in your paper.  To find an article from a citation, follow the steps below: 

1. Go to Journals by Title or Subject on the library's home page. 

2. Type in the title of the journal to see if the library has access.  If it does, then there will be databases in which to access that journal.  You will also see a date range that tells you what dates you can access. Click on the database that covers the date of the issue you need. 

3. Use the information provided in the citation to choose the issue you need. Click the year, volume, and issue number from the list of choices given.   You can also copy the title of the article, and paste it in the "search within this publication box" under the journal name.  Put quotation marks around the title.  

4. Search the issue for the title of the article.  The page numbers and title of the article will help with this step. 

Boolean Operators

Databases use Boolean operators in order to combine or separate keywords in a search.  The three operators - AND, OR, NOT - help to either broaden or narrow your search results.  Below are diagrams that illustrate how these operators work.  


The operator "AND" combines the two search terms, and narrows the search.  Think the green section on the diagram above. 


Using "NOT" tells the database to search for one search term but not the other.  This narrows the search; in other words, think the red section, not the grey or purple. 

The "OR" operator is used to retrieve results using both search terms.  This broadens the search.  In this case, think all the purple.