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Basic Research Process

Accessing Research Sources

Searching for Sources

  • Search databases using keywords. You will use the words you noted as probable search terms (a.k.a. keywords) related to your topic.
  • Databases are collections of informative sources (like articles, videos, books, etc.) that have many things in common and usually focus on a single large concept like medicine or business. But, some cover several subject areas.
  • Search Strings are the combinations of words, Boolean operators, and word tools typed into database search boxes to find information.

The first thing one usually sees on a search page is a single blank box in which to type.

These simple or basic searches look everywhere in the available content for your terms. They may return many resources but, you must browse through them to find those you really need.

The Library Search, and many databases, also provide an Advanced Search.  Always look for an Advanced Search option for better results. 

Save time by using Advanced Search to search in specific parts of the content, to get better results.

Search fields allow you to search in specific parts of each information resource. You may search, for example, several terms in the full text & other terms in the abstracts & many other areas. 

You select which field to search from a drop-down list next to a search box (as shown below). This is usually called an Advanced Search page.

To get the most benefit from searching fields, use Word Manipulation Tools and Boolean Operators shown below.

Word Manipulation Tools

Truncation allows a word to end in any way. A truncation symbol after the beginning letters (the trunk) of a word will retrieve words that start the same way and end differently. This is a good way to search for words that have various forms.

The Truncation symbol is often an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with *. 

  • For example: technolog* would look for technology, technologiestechnologist and technological.

  • If you get an error or unexpected results, find the database's help file and look for advanced search help.

    • Some sites use other truncation characters. For example, the Library of Congress uses the question mark (?). Always look for search help on any database site.

Phrase searching is a way to look for very specific ideas. Some ideas are best expressed as a phrase. This is a narrowly focused way to search.

Enclosing words in quotation marks, “ “, will search the database for those words together in exactly that order.

  • For example: searching for detached retinal surgery will search for and return only items with that exact phrase.

  • This can save much time in reviewing resources but, only if that exact phrase is in the database.

    • Sometimes you may need to broaden your terminology to get a search result.

Remember, if you simply enter several words in a database search box you may find all of the words but, not always together or in the order you want.

The symbols and use rules for wildcards vary widely from one database to another.*

Wild card searching uses symbols to replace unknown letters or places where different letters within a word may be used. Examples are men and man, women and woman, color and colour (British spelling).

  • Different databases use wildcards differently. Most databases do not allow use of a wildcard as the first or last letter of a word.

  • Our Discover search uses the question mark (?) to replace a single letter within a word.

    • For example wom?n will find both woman and women. There must be a letter where the ? appears.

  • Discover and some other databases also use the asterisk (*) to replace zero or more letters within a word.

    • For example Ols*n will find Olsen, Olson, Olsson, Olssen, and Olsn.

Note Business Source Premier uses the hash, or pound, sign (#) to replace zero or more letters within a word.

*Always check search help or advanced search help for wildcard use.

Many, but not all, databases support this powerful, search feature.*

Proximity searching looks for words that are located near each other within a specific number of words. 

Our Discover search allows proximity searching. This is how proximity searches are formatted in Discover .

  1. Put your search words in quotes as a phrase

    “cessation nicotine therapy”

  2. Add a tilde (~) after the phrase followed by the number of words within which you want to find the words.

    “cessation nicotine therapy”~10

NOTE: this will find the words in any order.

For this examplecessation ... nicotine ... therapy, nicotine ... therapy … cessation, or therapy … cessation ... nicotine and 4 others

ome results from this search in titles are: 'Vaccines in trials for nicotine cessation therapy' | 'Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation' | 'ABC of smoking cessation: Nicotine replacement therapy'

In our Discover search you may use proximity searching in full text or any individual field.

* Always remember to check Search Help for how a database needs a proximity search to be formatted.