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English - Poetry: 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 the poet's name and the word "biography" (ex: Frost, Robert and biography); search by poet's name and the title of the poem for articles. If the title is phrasal, such as "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, place the title inside quotation marks. In the database search box, type: Frost and "The Road Not Taken" to locate information about this poem.

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.  Here are some "subject terms" suggested by the Academic Search Premier database when searching the word "poetry"

19th century English poetry
21st century American poetry
American poetry
American poets
Arabic poetry
children's poetry
Chinese poetry
early modern English poetry
English poets
epic poetry
French poetry
Greek poetry
love poetry
lyric poetry
modern poetry
narrative poetry
poetry & children
poetry (literary form)
poetry (literary form) -- history & criticism
poetry (literary form) -- social aspects
poetry collections
poetry competitions
poetry publishing
poetry studies
poetry writing
political poetry
prose poems
religious poetry
Spanish poetry
themes in poetry
war poetry
women poets

Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string:  poetry AND 20th century or try the search string:  poetry 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 (see the above list of terms). 

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.