Research 101: Database Searching

Research 101: Database Searching


Database searching: tips for searching
academic databases. Google is an invaluable resource, but it can’t access
everything that’s available on the Internet.
The majority of high-quality academic research, like articles from scholarly
journals, is only available through subscription databases, like those Touro
pays for you to have access to. These databases compile the articles from issues
many different journals, and allow you to search across all of them at once. Free
web searching and library databases are both excellent sources of information,
but each resource as distinct strikes. Google is great for finding background
information, examples of popular opinion, updates on current events, and for
accessing most government publications. Although you can find some academic
research articles, especially using tools like Google Scholar, your best bet for
scholarly material is library databases. This is where you’ll find the most
in-depth, high-quality research on your subject that has been vetted and
approved by other experts in the field. To search for academic journal articles,
you can view a list of all the databases that Touro subscribes to, or you can see
them grouped by the subject area that they cover. From the list of databases,
you can hover over the information icon to learn more about its contents.
Remember: if you’re searching the databases from off-campus, you’ll need to
first set up a username and password to gain access.
Databases are more particular about what you enter into your search than Google
is. It’s important to be specific and take advantage of their various search
tools to find what you need efficiently. A few basic tools like Boolean operators,
truncation, quotes, and advanced search options can help you to speed up the
searching process. Use AND to combine your search terms when it’s necessary for all
of them to appear in each search themselves. The more terms you combine
with AND, the fewer results you will retrieve, as more conditions need to be
met. If you have a group of synonyms or related terms, only one of which would be
necessary to make a document relevant, combine these words with OR; this
will give you more results, as only one of the linked words will need to appear
in each document returned. Many search engines, including most databases as well
as Google, will allow you to substitute a special character — a
wildcard — for one or more letters of a search term. When used at the end of a
term, the wildcard allows you to search for all possible variations on the word
at one. To use this tool first think of all of the different forms a keyword
might take. Compare these words to see what parts they all have in common, and
where they begin to differ. Keep as much of the word stem as possible to avoid
accidentally retrieving unrelated results. For example, if you enter ADVERTIS* in to your search, it will retrieve documents with advertising,
advertisement, advertisements, or advertiser, or any other word that shares
these same first eight letters. Placing quotes around a word or phrase
will ensure that they are found in the document exactly as you have entered
them. This is particularly useful for names and compound or common phrases.
Avoid placing quotes around sentences or long strings of words, however, since it’s
unlikely that another author would use those exact words even if he was writing
about your topic. For an example of some of these search
tricks in action, look at the following search for articles on drug abuse and
teenagers. We’ve used truncation to include all forms of teen, teenager, and
teenage, plus their plurals. AND is used to combine the different ideas in our
topic to show that they all need to be present in our results. But OR is used
between synonyms, since only one term would need to appear. If you wanted to go
further, you can also specify where in each document the search terms are found,
like in the author, title, or the abstract. Even if you take the time to build an
organized specific search, it will rarely find exactly what you need on the first
results page. Database searching is all about trial and error and continually
refining your approach, so don’t be afraid to keep tweaking your search to
see what works best. Most results screens will give you many options for doing it. Try
adding, subtracting, or switching out different keywords. You can also limit
your results by source or document type, date range, or to those tagged with
certain subject terms. As you search, you’ll become more familiar with the
topic and the particular vocabulary used to describe it, so always be on the
lookout for possible new keywords. Some databases will include the full-text of
some or all of the articles that it includes, but others will only have the
citation and abstract. But just because one database doesn’t have a full text of
a document, it doesn’t mean that another database that Touro subscribes to won’t
either. To check to see if you have access to an
article, click on the article linker icon and look for links available to TCNY
students. Even if an article is not available elsewhere online, the library
can still get it for you through interlibrary loan.
Use the request material link on the library home page, or ask a librarian for
assistance. This may take a couple of weeks however, so plan ahead.
And remember: to find additional resources about these or any other
topics related to research and library use, don’t forget to visit the Student
Services page on the library website.

Danny Hutson

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