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Using Databases: Searching for Articles

This guide will introduce you to the library Databases at WIU. You will find out what we subscribe to and where they are located. It is intended to provide information for scholarly research and to supplement classroom learning.

The database basics

All databases let you do three main things, they let you:   

•Search using one or more terms     
•Sort and filter results     
•Save your results

Many of the tools in the database are similar to those in the library catalog, but they also have some unique features as well. Because databases are made by different companies, the features they have and the way you access these features varies.

Planning the search

Before searching it helps to plan your approach, here are four things you can do to get ready.

Step One Consider your research questions or topic. State your research question or topic. 
Example Do video games increase violence in teens?

Step Two Identify key words or concepts  What are the key concepts? What are the nouns and noun phrases in the question?
Example Do video games increase violence  in teens?  Video Games      Violence      Teens
Tip: Get ideas from background research or textbooks.

Step Three List Related Terms Consider how different people or communities talk about the concept. Consider how language has changed over time. Think of broader terms, narrower terms, or synonyms. 
Example violence, aggression, shootings, attacks, video games, gaming, gamers, computer games, teen, teens, teenagers
Tip: Use a thesaurus or chat with a librarian.

Step Four Consider Using Some Search Tricks. AND, OR, NOT to combine terms.  Use the search tool to narrow things down by filtering the title, author, or subject.
Example Video Combine keywords like Games  AND  Violence  AND  Teens, limit the date to the last 10 years, use the limits to select academic journals

Searching and sorting

Searching involves tools and techniques for finding specific information by adding keywords to create a search string. In a database the advanced search is usually the best way to do this because it gives you multiple blanks for the keywords, and lets you use drop down selectors for Boolean Operators that can filter the results (ANDORNOT). Look at the difference in the number of results. Booleans terms are an easy way to adjust the amount and the focus of the results because you can tell it too look at things individually (OR) or grouped together.

AND: all words must show up in the result; reduces number of items in the results teens AND video games 942
OR: any of the words can be in the results; increases number of items in the results teens OR video games 430,264
NOT: remove the keyword from the results; reduces the number of items in the results teens NOT video games 88,450

Sorting is where the order of the items is changed but the number of items visible to the user stays the same. In a database sorting options are typically currency of the item (old or new) or relevance (how it is more or less strongly related to your search terms). This is handy because the while newest articles may appear at the t\op of the list, they are often others lower in the list that are more focused on your topic.

Filtering with limits


Filtering lets you limit the number of options to contain only those matching the criteria that a person has selected. These are usually based around the characteristics of the item. A range of common things can be filtered including the title, the author, and the publisher of an item. Most times you can search by  • Fields (subject, author, title)   • Source (scholarly article, magazine, or news)   • Material type (articles, books, images, etc.) and  • Date Range (returns only items between dates).

You can  filter the search terms by using the drop down selectors for Boolean Operators (ANDORNOT) on the search blanks. The default for most advanced search tools is AND, putting AND between terms means that ALL the terms have to be related to the item in some way.

But they would also have some filters unique to research including: the type of item (newspaper, magazine size, or type), a specific date range (2000 to 2015), or the Subject, a standardized word or phrase that describes a main idea in the article.

Do Not Check Full-Text Only

One thing to remember is that when you are using databases at WIU, do not check "Full-Text Only," the databases have a tool that lets you search through all of them should you not find full-text in the database you are in. If you check this feature, then it will not look outside the database you are in.