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HI_RE 490 From Temple to Basilica: Research Tips - Database Searching

What is a database?

A library database is a searchable electronic catalog or index containing information about published items. Databases contain thousands of periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and journals)  and other items that are stored electronically.  Some databases provide only abstracts (brief article summaries provided by the author or publisher), others provide the full-text of articles.

Some library databases index items across many subject areas. Most databases index materials from a specific focus or discipline. To find a database by subject, go to Databases by Subject page.

In research, it is important to know which database or databases you should search in order to locate the best research for your assignment. If you have questions about selecting appropriate databases, please Ask a Librarian.

Database Instructions

Collier Library subcribes to over 150 databases. Currently enrolled students, faculty & staff have access to the databases from off-campus. Use your UNA Portal username and password to log-in.

Many of these databases are full-text, but not all. If an article is available in full-text format within the database there will be a "PDF" or "HTML" link in the record. If the full-text is not available within the database you are searching, we may be able to obtain it from another database or the library may have a print subcription. To determine if this is the case look for the "Full-text @ UNA" link within the record. Clicking this link with take you to a page with additional information. It may have a link to another database, to UNACAT, or, if full-text is not available, to an ILL request form. 

The databases listed on this guide were selected to assist you in finding information in a specific area. A complete listing of our databases can be found here.

 If you are encountering problems accessing the databases, please call 256-765-4469.

What are subject headings?

Subject Headings (sometimes called descriptors in a database) are terms used in databases and catalogs to describe and index resources. The strength of subject headings is that they allow the use of a controlled vocabulary to organize information in a logical fashion. The goal is to make it easier for you to find the specific information you need.  A controlled vocabulary is a set of standard terms used to describe the contents of items found in a database. This includes the contents of books in the library and articles listed in an index.

In libraries, controlled vocabulary is usually referred to as subject headings. UNA Libraries, along with most academic libraries, uses the Library of Congress Subject Headings. This is a huge list of descriptive words and phrases which is published in four large, red volumes. You can find the print Library of Congress Subject Headings in the Ready Reference area of Collier Library.  You can also find them online as well. Most of the records for books you will find in UNACAT (the Libraries online catalog) have one or more subject headings attached to them. Periodical indexes (databases) often refer to their controlled vocabulary terms as descriptors, but it all means the same thing.

A controlled vocabulary is an important way of drawing together, under a single word or phrase, all the material that is available on a particular topic. The purpose is to take the "guess work" out of searching. Knowing the appropriate subject heading can make your database searches more efficient and precise.

Remember to contact a librarian if you need assistance.

Grouping

() -- Using parentheses will tell the database or search engine to search the parenthesis as one search and then add in the rest of the search. This allows you to control a search query. Without parentheses, a search is executed from left to right; using parentheses will ensure that the words enclosed in parentheses are searched together, and are searched first. Why is this important? Parentheses allow you to control and define the way the search will be executed.

This allows you to form more complex searches using Boolean Operators.

Example: (marijuana OR cannabis OR cannabinoids) AND (therapeutic use OR medicinal use)

Truncation & Wildcards

Most databases and library catalogs allow the use of quotation marks and wildcard or truncation symbols to replace unknown characters, multiple spellings, or unknown endings.

EbscoHost
Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases.

In EbscoHost databases the ? and are the wildcard symbols. Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*).  Please note that neither the wildcard or truncation symbol can be used as the first character in a search term.

To use the ? wildcard symbol, enter your search term and replace each unknown character with a ?. This will find citations with that term with the ? replaced by a letter. Example: ne?t will find citations containing neat, nest, or next.

To use the #wildcard symbol, enter your search term, adding the # in places where an alternate spelling may contain an extra character. Example: colo#r will find colour or color.

To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. Results with all forms of that word will be returned. Example: teen* will find teens, teenager, teenagers, etc.

You may also use the truncation symbol (*) between words to match any word. Example: a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the phrase "a midsummer night's dream".

Click here for more searching tips from EbscoHost.

Gale
Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases.

In the Gale databases the ?, *, and ! are the wildcard symbols. Please note that the wildcard symbol cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

To use the * wildcard symbol, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. Results with all forms of that word will be returned. Example: teen* will find teens, teenager, teenagers, etc.

To use the ?wildcard symbol, enter your search term and replace each unknown character with a ?. This will find citations with that term with the ? replaced by a letter. Example: ne?t will find citations containing neat, nest, or next psych????y will find either psychology or phychiatry.

The ! wildcard symbol stands for exaclty one or no characters. Use this symbol to locate singular and plural forms of a word, but not other forms. Example: product! matches product and products, but not productive.

Click here for more searching tips from Gale.

JSTOR

Due to the nature of the JSTOR database, (journal preservation and storage of periodicals rather than indexing) it is important to use the advanced search features available when searching this resource.  The search features listed below are only a few of the options available.  Please click here for more searching tips from JSTOR.

Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases.

In JSTOR the and *are the wildcard symbols. Please note that the wildcard symbol cannot be used as the first character in a search term.

The ? is used for single character searching. Example: ne?t will find citations containing neat, nest, or next.

An * is used for multiple character searching. Entering the root of a word and replacing the ending with an * will locate results with all forms of that word. Example: teen* will find teens, teenager, teenagers, etc.

Use the ~ (tilde) symbol at the end of a word to find words with spellings similar to your search term. Example: Dostoyevsky~ will find variant spellings such as dostoevsky, dostoievski, dostoevsky, dostoyevski, dostoevskii, dostoevski, etc.

ProQuest

Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases.

To use the * wildcard symbol, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. Results with all forms of that word will be returned. Example: teen* will find teens, teenager, teenagers, etc.

The ? is used for single character searching. Example: ne?t will find citations containing neat, nest, or next.

Click here for more searching tips from ProQuest.

Boolean Operators

Using Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) when searching is one of the best ways to locate information in a library catalog, database, or search engine.  Boolean Operators show the relationship between words and/or phrases and allow you to narrow or expand your search.

 

AND
Use the AND operator to string search terms together and narrow your results.  This works well with searches that are too general.
Example: marijuana AND medicinal use

OR
Use the OR operator to broaden a search. If you are retrieving too few records, try adding synonyms or related terms to your search. OR is particularly useful when you are unsure of the words used to describe your topic.
Example: (marijuana OR cannabis OR cannabinoids)

NOT
Use the NOT operator to exclude terms.
Example: marijuana NOT substance abuse 

Developing a Search Strategy

Try this search strategy builder from the University of Arizona Library to help build a search that you can use when searching the UNA Libraries databases:

Search Strategy Builder