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Elko, NV 89801

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Library HOW-Tos: Database Searching

Tips for searching for an article

Looking for an article can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. After you learn these tips, you will see better search results every time you research. 

Select the Correct database(s)

*Check our subject guides for recommended databases for your field of research.

*There are databases that cover an array of subjects / multi-discipline  -EBSCO, ProQuest, and Academic Search Premier are good examples.

*Read description of the database

*Ask library staff or your professor if you have any questions.

Use Correct Terms & Formulate Your Search

*Become familiar with the subject you are researching!
As detailed in the previous tab, "Before starting your research" you mustknow the terms that are used within the topics of your chosen research.

  • There are several references that you can do preliminary research to note these terms- some of these sources are:
    • (
    • Online Encyclopedias (GBC Subject Guide for Encyclopedias)
    • Internet Public Library (
    • Wikipedia (
    • Blogs (,,…)
    • Google Scholar (google scholar)
    • (
    • Pew Research Center (
      Write down terms used, like terms, associations you spot, any other interesting information that might assist your searching later. Can a thesaurus help get more terms? What about professionals that work in the field – do they have a website or reports you can read?

Next, formulate your question. What do you want to know?  
Make a chart with every key word from your research question and find at least 2-3 alternate terms for each word. 

These words can also be related or encompassed within your term to narrow the information if needed - example is in culture encompasses many components, such as art, religion, food, etc. Does culture effect the health of the population

Example searches:
culture and health and population 
ethnicity and public health and children  
Religion and health and children 

Another example: If you are researching teenagers - these terms may assist retrieving results.

Example: Teens, teenagers, adolescents, young adults, youth, juvenile, minor
Research is NOT a linear process, it takes time, so enjoy it! Play around with terms and observe what you retrieve.  

Continue to read more tips below. 

Use Boolean Logic

(the use of  "and, or, not" ) and truncate (use of "star"  *  ) 

*The use of Boolean and truncation (*) can help A LOT when retrieving articles that are relevant to your topic.

For more information, please read the library's guide on using Boolean Logic in your searches by clicking the following link: Guide to Using Boolean Operators in Your Search.



teen*  -by truncating - using the star symbol, (*) teen* this tells the database to pull teen and longer terms that start with teen.  
Example, for teen* the database will look for: teen, teens, teenage, teenagers, etc. 


The use of "and, or, & not" can help filter your results to be more precise.   
drug* and teen* will look for these terms (drug, drugs, teen, teenager, teens, etc.). 
drug and teen will look for drug and teen.  
drug teen will look for these terms TOGETHER.

teen* and (drug or alcohol)  Note the use of parenthesis - The database will look in the parenthesis as one command, then use that in conjunction with the rest of the search. So, the database will pull all teen* [teens, teenagers, etc...] AND also [both drugs or alcohol].

If the parenthesis were not used, i.e., teen* and drugs and alcohol, then the database will pull articles where teen* and drugs AND alcohol are used [all three terms present]

If you are researching bears and their diet in Chicago area (remember this is an example, you can laugh at me!), but NOT the team the Chicago Bears, this would be a good time to use NOT= bear* and diet (not Chicago Bears)

“Advance search” within databases can help you structure Boolean logic as seen in the picture below in the next section. 

Most databases have a "HELP" section to offer tips specific to the database.  
Librarians are available to help as well. 

Search and Revise as Needed

  • Go for it. Choose your database(s), grab your terms, and play around!
  • See how your results look. You most likely will have to revise your searches or use filters. 
  • Perhaps use other words? Use the database limiters [filter]- usually on the side of the screen, these limiters filter by date of publication, scholarly, type (article, book review), and more!
  • Use the "Advance Search" too- sometimes the Advance Search can help you structure your search using Boolean Logic.

(Also note "helpers" within some databases - Academic Search Premier allows you to retrieve suggested subject terms, located above the search box!)

Other tricks for finding sources:

*Look at the works cited/references of a relevant article, book, or other research resources. You can find really good sources this way! 
*Look at the results within the record for the article for SUBJECT terms. Use these too!!! Sometimes the words are linked and you can click on them from an article's record and retrieve other articles that are using these subject terms. After clicking on an article, the record will display SUBJECT terms that are assigned to other articles on the same topic.

Subject terms are assigned to be helpful, but again, they can be tricky- Example: Car v Automobile; that is why it is important to do preliminary research on what terms are used and use alternate names, as well as subject terms.

Filters are also very useful. They can offer you to select a date range, type of article, other terms, and more. Usually databases have their filters on the left side. 
It is good practice NOT to use "STOP WORDS" in your search, such asa, an, the, in, of, on, are, be, if, into, which.

Do not forget, it may take a few searches to get good information. 
You will get better and better! :) 

Citations are REQUIRED in research for your classes, so find out which format your instructor wants and do not forget to cite your work! Use information ethically. 

For assistance, please see the tab, "Citation Help." 

For More Information Contact

Great Basin College Library
McMullen Hall
1500 College Parkway
Elko, NV 89801

Why Great Basin College

Great Basin College wants to be your choice for higher education. GBC offers associate and baccalaureate level instruction in career and technical education and academic areas. About 3,800 students are enrolled online from across the country and on campuses and centers across 86,500 square miles, two time zones, and ten of Nevada’s largest counties. We border Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and California. We are GBC!

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