- Find the top databases by your major or discipline
- Connect with a specific subject librarian for a research consultation
2. Choose the right keywords! Retrieving the best articles relies on using the right terms
Identify the main concepts of your topic.
Brainstorm synonyms and alternative phrasings for each of your main concepts. Focus on using nouns and only use verbs or adjectives if necessary. Don't use minor words such as "the," "in," "on," or "of". Consider British as well as American spelling.
See if your subject database has specific thesaurus terms that relate directly to your search concepts. A database thesaurus will identify the proper terms to use in that database and will also suggest broader, narrower, and related terms for you to consider.
3. Learn how to combine search terms properly. Librarians call this "boolean searching"
AND narrows a search - both terms must be present
OR broadens a search - either term will be present
from the University of Minnesota, Biomedical Library
4. Learn to use advanced search features such as truncation, phrase searching, and search limiting
Truncation: in many databases you can use an asterisk (*) to retrieve items with various word endings and spellings. For example: child* will find child, children, or childish. Other frequently used truncation symbols include a question mark (?) or a dollar sign ($).
Phrase Searching: most databases require quotation marks around the phrase. A phrase search will then locate only records containing the words in the particular order in which they appear. Example: "invasive species" instead of: invasive species
Limiting: many databases have advanced limiting features relevant to the subject. Check for limiting by year, publication type (e.g. research article or review article), gender, or age groups.
5.Follow the citations: find more studies by using citation searching.
Backward searching: look through the reference lists of articles you have found. The reference studies are likely to be quite relevant for you as well.