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English - Persons or Organizations Making a Difference: 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.

Limiters

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.

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.

Example Terms:
charities
charitable giving
nonprofit organizations
NPOS
corporations - nonprofit
institutions - nonprofit
social services
humanitarianism
philanthropy
 
Personal causes: What is the person's interest or cause?
AIDS activists
animal rights activists (animal rights movement)
community activists
civil rights activists
environmentalists
human rights activists or civil rights activists
lobbyists
peace activists
political activists

Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string:  nonprofit organizations AND homeless persons or try the search string that contains a type and a person:  civil rights activists AND Rustin Bayard . 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 ProQuest offers a "thesaurus" link.  Enter terms in the Browsing box to see how the database recognizes them.

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