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Tips for Searching Article Databases: Utilize Database Feature

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

Utilize Database Features

In order to search effectively, it is important to become familiar with the database being used. Understanding the system's shortcuts and quirks will save time and decrease frustration. Some important characteristics to identify are how to truncate words, how to search for a phrase, and how the Boolean operators are used. To become familiar with the database, read the database guides, look at examples in the guides, and take the tutorials. Funk ACES Library provides many resource guides. If a search does not give the results anticipated, read the database help pages to determine what the database is doing. Many databases/database providers also have customer service hotlines via email or phone that can help assist with any search issues. 

The searching methods vary from database to database. However, most have a basic search function and an advanced search function. Some databases will also have a intermediate search function. These search functions are also highly variable, which is why it is important to become familiar with the database. The goal of the search determines which search function may be best suited for you. 

Searching Specific Databases

Common Database Features with Examples

Basic Searches

Typically, the basic search box only searches one field, which may or may not be predetermined. The basic search is useful to determine how many articles in a database are related to the topic, which will help in generating search strategies. It is also helpful when doing a known item search, such as when the exact title is shown. 

Advanced Searches

The advanced search should be used when the collection of interested articles is large and needs to be narrowed. You can use search terms in multiple fields simultaneously. It is useful to include multiple fields in order to locate a specific item, such as combining an author's name with a subject if it is a common name like "Brown."


Many databases have limits that control the available articles by specified parameters, for example, by date, format, material type, language, or location. This feature eliminates records that are outside the selected limits, for example, you can limit to only see review articles or articles published in the last five years. 

Examples of Other Unique Database Features to Look Out For

All databases have their own unique features for doing typical search procedures, as well as unique operations:

  • search within results
  • analyze results
  • search history
  • search by taxonomic data
  • related articles and links

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