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Using Databases


Helpful Tips

Quickly learn basics of using library databases to find articles.

Tutorial Links

Many database companies have created their own tutorials on how to use their resources with wikis, FAQs, short videos, and PDFs:

Finding Databases

If you already know the name of the database, you can type it into the search bar on the library homepage or you can click on Databases to see the full list.

databases link

Search Terms

Fewer terms = More results

When you start your search, use just a few terms.

If you get many results, then add more terms to narrow your results.

Screen shot of search for "gender roles" in Women's Studies International, displaying 8,358 results

Remember: more search terms = fewer results. 

Screenshot of search in Women's Studies International for "gender roles" AND parenthood, showing 69 results

Database Differences

Databases differ in appearance, often because they are produced by different companies. However, they also share many features. Note the differences and similarities between JSTOR, Sociology Abstracts (by ProQuest), CINAHL (by Ebsco).

 Screenshot of JSTOR main search page, showing advanced search and other search options under "Narrow by", such as item type, date range, and language

Screenshot of ProQuest Sociological Abstracts main screen, showing advanced search and additional search options, including source type, document type, and language.

Screenshot of CINAHL (by Ebsco) main interface, showing advanced search, and search options including Search Modes and Expanders, and Limit Your Results


Venn diagram showing search using AND: the overlap of

AND: Find items in which both terms are used

Use AND to focus results more narrowly, a useful strategy when one term is too general and returns too many results. In most databases, AND is the default.

Venn diagram showing search using OR: the entirety of circles representing

OR: Find items in which either term is used

Use OR to expand results to include multiple possible terms, a useful strategy when concepts are represented by more than one term, e.g. children OR kids OR juveniles

Venn diagram showing search using NOT: The circle representing

NOT: Excludes some articles from results

Use NOT to exclude items you don't want in results, a useful strategy when results are cluttered with a related but irrelevant topic.