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English - Drama - Literature: Database Search Tips

Database Search Tips

  1. Be prepared with synonyms in case your original search produces no results. If the database offers a link to a thesaurus or subject terms tab, use it to locate additional or related words for your search terms.
  2. Pay attention to search tips or help screens provided by each database. Take the time to learn how to use the tool - it will help you to avoid frustration!
  3. Remember that most databases allow for Boolean Searching (see the video in this guide). Use and to narrow, or to expand, not to exclude. Truncation is also useful for bringing back all relevant results. For example, type counsel* to bring back documents containing the words counsel, counseling, counselor...
  4. Review the database search screen for a Thesaurus or Subject Terms tab or link.
  5. Review articles, the references with this article, look for sections listing key words or subject terms, and relationships to your focus on the topic.


Depending on the database, it may offer a variety of ways to limit your results:

  • Full Text
  • Scholarly or Peer Reviewed
  • Publication  or Document Type (journal articles, book reviews, reports)
  • Published Date

For articles that are not available in full text, use the InterLibrary Loan service.


Many databases offer a tab called "Publications" where one can enter a title or a keyword or subject term and locate the journals relating to this subject area.
For example, in the OmniFile Full Text Mega database, it offers the Publications tab and when the term drama is entered into the Browse box and using the By Subject & Description selection, over 30 periodicals relating to drama will display. You can select to search by journal or select multiple journals and add to the search. 

More Database Searching Tips

For remote access to search databases, you may be prompted for your NSU userID and password. From the NSU Libraries' home page underneath the Research section, click on the link "Articles and Databases." This displays a listing of databases from general to those listed by subject field or discipline. Or try the Database A-Z link, which lists our databases in alphabetical order.

 If uncertain about which database to use, begin by choosing a general database like Academic Search Premier or you can always click the "Ask a Librarian" link for assistance.

For additional assistance after selecting a database, review the database Help screens for suggestions in using the database effectively. To locate only full-text articles, look for the full-text limiter and check the box. For articles that are not available in full-text format in our print collections or online through our databases, use the InterLibrary Loan service.

For descriptions of the EBSCO databases, see EBSCOhost. You may also select and search multiple EBSCO databases simultaneously (see the tutorial on the right-hand side of this page). Some journals contain biographical content and criticism articles. For biographical information, search by writer's name (ex: O'Neill, Eugene and biography); search by writer's name and title of story for articles. If the title is phrasal, such as Before Breakfast by Eugene O'Neill, place the title inside quotation marks. In the database search box, type: O'Neill and "Before Breakfast" to locate information about this work.

When using the Literature Resource Center database, 

choose the option Person-By or About and enter the writer's name and limit the content type to biographies. For the information about a particular work or title, choose the option Name of Work and enter the name of the drama/play.

Controlled Vocabulary

Most databases use a controlled vocabulary to organize information and make browsing more efficient and specific to chosen terms. When building your search string, consider keywords, synonyms or related terms.

  • acting
  • actors
  • drama
  • ​drama and history
  • drama theory
  • drama philosophy
  • drama and scripts OR literary form
  • dramatists
  • playwriting
  • drama and authorship
  • drama technique
  • authors and theater
  • stage adaptations
  • staging
  • theatrical agents
  • theater
  • children theater
  • college theater
  • theater audiences
  • performing arts
  • Shakespeare, William
  • Shakespeare, William and literature

Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator AND to refine your search string: drama AND 20th century or try the search string: drama AND criticism. Check to see if the database offers a Thesaurus or a Subject Terms tab or link. For instance, the database Academic Search Premier offers a subject terms tab, and the OmniFile Full Text Mega database features a Thesaurus tab. Enter terms in the Browsing box to see how the database recognizes them. See links to these two databases below.

Peer-reviewed Journal Titles

Listed below are several peer-reviewed journals accessible in different databases. To see which databases carry these titles, use the E-Journals by Title link below. Some articles will be available in full text and others will need to go through the InterLibrary Loan department for the full text article.

  • American Drama
  • Comparative Drama
  • Contemporary Drama in English
  • Journal of American Drama and Theatre
  • ​Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism
  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Modern Drama
  • New Theatre Quarterly
  • Renaissance Drama
  • Shakespeare Survey
  • Shakespeare Quarterly
  • Theatre Research International
  • Theatre Notebook
  • Theatre Survey
  • Theatre Topics

Boolean Operators Tutorial

Searching Multiple Databases

YouTube video created by NSU Libraries on how to search multiple EBSCOhost databases simultaneously.