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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Database Training

Graduate Assistant Orientation: Introduction to Database Searching

Top Ten Tips for Tackling Tricky Database Queries

  1. Know your database name. Are you talking about a specific database or a database provider? 
    EBSCO is a database vendor.
    Academic Search Ultimate is a database.

  2. Use the navigation the database provides. 
    Avoid the browser navigation!
    Use the options provided by the database. 

  3. Make sure you are in the right place. 
    Be certain the database is appropriate for the subject at hand. 

  4. Look for similar features. 
    These include:
    1. Multiple search boxes for your keywords and phrases
    2. Multiple search fields (usually in a drop-down menu)
    3. Features that allow you to limit your search
    4. Options to use Boolean operators in your search
    5. Features that allow you to save, print, or e-mail your results
    6. The ability to export citations to a citation management program
  1. Know how to narrow and broaden a search.
    1. Too much information? Look at some of the citations that appear to be on target. Use subject terms associated with these.
    2. Too little information? Think in broader terms. Can a topic be viewed as part of a hierarchy? If so, move up one step. 
    3. Use the limit options provided. Date, resource type, language, and more can all be used to focus a search.
  2. Use the help provided. 
    Look for and use the help options provided in the database.

  3. Use the limit options provided.  Is it necessary to search all available dates?  Do the results need to be only scholarly sources?  Are you looking for a particular kind of resource?  A specific language?  Check out limit options to make your search more focused.  
  4. KISS! Keep it simple, searcher. 
    Truncation, etc. are not consistent across databases. Don't confuse a novice searcher with unnecessary information.  

  5. Watch your language! 
    Avoid library jargon when working with users. 

  6. Find the right path to get to the actual source. 
    1. Look for HTML and PDF full-text access; find the permanent link that always returns to the article.
    2. Look for Discover links which will provide access to articles via other electronic resources.
    3. Need the print source? Get the appropriate source information - source name, volume, issue, date, page numbers, etc.