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McNair Scholar Services

Provides a guide to library services for McNair Scholars


Database Basics

Kirkpatrick Library has over 100 databases from many different vendors.  Each database is unique; however, there are several basic commonalities among these resources.  Most databases...

  • Offer both a basic and an advanced search interface.
  • Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) to limit search results.  The AND operator is frequently used as a default Boolean term.
  • Offer ways to narrow a search--by subject, format, year of publication, etc.
  • Offer options for dealing with the information found, such as saving, emailing, printing, and exporting.
  • Allow certain search conventions, such as using quotation marks to indicate a phrase and symbols such as * to indicate truncation.

Remember to search the database Help function for further information.

Using one of the Library's Subscription Databases:

If the library subscribes to a subject-specific database in your area of research, it is sometimes more efficient to search that databases individually.  Finding the right one for you is the first step. Browse library databases here.  If you know which database you want, click on the first letter of the database name. To find a database on a particular subject, choose "Select a Subject."  Or type the first few letters of the database name. 

Failed Searches

When your search doesn't work out as you'd hoped, ask yourself these questions:

Did you misspell any words? 
Did you select an appropriate database for your topic? 
Did you try using synonyms--words with similar meaning? 
Did you use too many ANDs? (They reduce results.) 
Did you add too many authors' names? 
Did you use punctuation to nest long, complicated searches? 
If you used truncation, did you use the correct symbol for the database? 
If you're looking for a particular title, did you try searching for words in the title (rather than the exact title)?
Did you fail to note system defaults (a default OR, for example)?
Did you accidentally search for a title instead of a keyword?