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COMM1113 Oral Communication: 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. See several examples in the table below.

Subject Terms Related Terms
Speech anxiety Social phobia, public speaking, stage fright, communication apprehension
Public speaking Oral communication, debates and debating, oratory
Oral communication Dialogue analysis, discourse, speech


Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string:  oral communication AND speeches or addresses or try the search string:  public speaking AND speech anxiety . 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 Communication & Mass Media Complete database features a "thesaurus" tab, while ProQuest offers a "thesaurus" link.  Enter terms in the Browsing box to see how the database recognizes them.


The list below examples journal titles; some are peer-reviewed and some are not peer-reviewed.

Argumentation & Advocacy (peer-reviewed)

Journal of Nonverbal Behavior (peer-reviewed)

Gesture (academic journal - peer-reviewed)

International Journal of Listening (peer-reviewed)

Journal of Communications Research (peer-reviewed)

Quarterly Journal of Speech (peer-reviewed) - other titles: Quarterly Journal of Speech Education and the Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking

Speech Communication (peer-reviewed)

Text & Talk (peer-reviewed: subject Speech Communication)

Today's Speech (peer-reviewed - changed title to Communication Quarterly)

Visual Communication (peer-reviewed)

Vital Speeches of the Day (not peer-reviewed:  publication type is a primary source document that focuses on text of speeches on a wide range of political topics)

Vital Speeches International (not peer-reviewed)

Voices of Democracy (not peer-reviewed: subjects are Rhetoric & Discourse and Public Speaking)

CQ Researcher Tutorial (issues)

Boolean Operators - Tutorial

Searching multiple databases

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