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Cherokee Cultural Heritage 4113/AMST 5923: 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.

keetoowah indians
keetoowah society
keetoowah society - history
cherokee indians - societies
​cherokee indians - religion
cherokee indians - history 
oklahoma history
five civilized tribes
native american history
native american history AND 19th century OR 20th century
native american wars
​treaty indian reservations
native amerians - treaties
indian removal, 1813-1903

For public history information, here are some search terms:

oral history
"oral histor*" and american
personal narratives


Combine or group terms or concepts using the Boolean operator "AND" to refine your search string: oral histor* AND american or try the search string:keetoowah AND oklahoma. Check to see if the database offers a Thesaurus or a Subject Terms tab or link. For instance, the Academic Search Premier database offers a "subject terms" tab.

the Military & Government Collection database features a "subjects" tab,

and the ProQuest database offers a "thesaurus" link.  

Enter your search terms in the browsing boxes to see how each database recognizes them.

Boolean Operators - Tutorial

Searching Multiple Databases

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