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HIST 4603 - History of the New South: 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.

JSTOR Tutorial 2017

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. 

American history
American west
​settlements of the west
economic interests in the west
frontier and American society
frontier legend
politics and the American frontier
California gold rush
gold rush and mining
native American resistance
the plains Indians
home steading
pioneer life
nativism and assimilation
​annexation of Texas
manifest destiny and frontier
Indians of north America

Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string:  american history AND 19th century or try the search string:  dust bowl AND oklahoma . Check to see if the database offers a Thesaurus or a Subject Terms tab or link (see the referenced database examples below). For instance, the database Academic Search Premier offers a "subject terms" tab, and the Military & Government Collection database features a "subjects" tab, while ProQuest offers a "thesaurus" link.  Enter terms in the Browsing box to see how the database recognizes them. In the database, America: History & Life, it offers the tab "CLIO Notes," where you can search by a span of years, concepts, presidency, movements, and year spans.

E-Journals by Title

E-Journals by Title can be used to find many of the full text articles that are not available in full text through a particular database.  See the link below.

Boolean Operators - Tutorial

Searching Multiple Databases

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

Peer-Reviewed Articles - Video

YouTube video from Pollak Library, California State University - Fullerton