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English 2113 Introduction to 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.

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. When searching for information about an author's work, consider combining the author's name and a keyword from the work's title. As some databases may or may not have articles on your topic, consider searching multiple databases simultaneously. EBSCO offers an integrated search, which will search all of the NSU subscribed  EBSCO databases at once. See video on this page for an illustration.

The Library Discovery system will search databases and the library collection as well as worldwide libraries simultaneously when using the "Everything" tab.

Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string:  kate chopin AND hour or try the search string: gilman  AND wallpaper . 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 ERIC database features a "Thesaurus" tab. Enter terms in the Browsing box to see how the database recognizes them.



Listed below is a small sampling of periodicals with information about Literature studies. Search by publication title using the Library Discovery system's  "Everything" tab and "Advanced Search" option. For additional periodicals, look for a "Publications" tab featured in many of the EBSCO databases or check the JSTOR database, "Advanced Search" for its "Journal Filter" and narrow by discipline or journal. (EX.Languages & Literature 356 titles)

The American Poetry Review
Comparative Literature Studies
The English Journal
The Eugene O'Neill Review
The Emily Dickinson Journal
Studies in Modern Poetry (peer-reviewed)
American Drama and Theatre (peer-reviewed - open access) - link below
Comparative Drama (peer-reviewed)
Studies in English Literature (peer-reviewed)
Modern Fiction Studies (peer-reviewed)
Studies in American Fiction (peer-reviewed)
Studies in Short Fiction (peer-reviewed)

JSTOR Tutorial 2017

Boolean Operators - Tutorial

Searching Multiple Databases

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