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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tips for Searching Article Databases: Home

Finding the right information isn't just luck. Creating a strategy is essential for successful search results. Knowledge about information resources and search strategies will produce meaningful search results, even when you are not familiar with the topi

General Search Strategies

  • Create a search statement using keywords
  • Use bibliographic databases appropriate to your topic. Checking more than one can be very useful to pick up unique titles. 
  • Use keywords and controlled languages
  • Use Boolean searching
  • Change approaches as necessary—gathering information is not a direct process
  • Continue to identify applicable keywords and controlled vocabulary to search in the selected database(s) and other resources

Ask A Librarian for help with additional questions!

Search Tips

  • When brainstorming keywords to search by, think of terms that are closely related to your topic, or terms you might use when discussing your topic with a colleague such as jargon, synonyms, and abbreviations.
  • "Search Options" allows you to limit your initial search by publication date, full-text results, scholarly (peer reviewed) journals, publication type, and more. 
  • Under "Search Options," set the "Search Mode" to Boolean/phrase, all search terms, some search terms, or SmartText searching. 
  • Use Boolean operators to limit, broaden, or eliminate terms from your search: 
    • AND limits search results, finding articles with both terms
    • OR broadens results, finding articles with either term
    • NOT eliminates terms from the results, finding articles with one term but not the other
  • Use truncation and wildcards to broaden your search:
    • Add a question mark (?) to replace one character in a word
    • Add a pound symbol (#)  to search for a word with an alternate spelling of a single character
    • Add an asterisk (*) after the stem of a word to find all its other possible endings. 
  • Use quotation marks around words to search for an exact phrase.

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