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PSU 7: First-Year Seminar

This guide is for students in Beth Potter's sections at Penn State Behrend.

Database Search Tips

  1. Use only a few keywords when you search. Do not type a whole sentence or question. Databases will look for each word you type in, and will only show you articles that contain ALL of those words. If you type a whole sentence in a database, you likely will miss many articles that would be useful, because they don't happen to contain the words you searched for.

  2. To find more relevant results quicker, try selecting the "abstract" or "title" search limiters. If a keyword is mentioned in the title or the abstract (a summary of the source), chances are, the whole article focuses on that topic, rather than mentioning the term briefly.

  3. Type "review" into the search box. if you are looking for a literature review article specifically. Authors will often add the words "review," "literature review," or "systematic review" in the title of these articles.


To use keywords to search, start by identifying the important concepts from a research topic. Take a look at the examples below for jumping off points.


Research Topic: Chocolate is beneficial to your health because it lowers blood pressure.

Keywords: chocolate AND blood pressure


Research Question: What is the impact of poverty on children's education in the United States?

Keywords: poverty AND education


Add "review" to your search to find literature review articles.


Keywords: chocolate AND blood pressure AND review

Keywords: poverty AND education AND review