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ENGL - Short Stories: 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.

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 keyword terms/phrases relating to "short stories."
science fiction short stories
short western stories
short stories historical fiction
short stories mystery
short story romance

Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string:  short story AND 20th century or try the search string:  short story 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. 


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. 


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.

Boolean Operators Tutorial

Searching Multiple Databases

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