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Research Help

This guide will help you at all stages of the research process, from choosing a topic to citing your sources.

Database Search Tips & Tricks

Too many results? 

  • Add search terms 

  • Try a narrower version of a search term 

  • Limit results (by date, subject, publication type, etc.) 

  • Use AND to make sure results include both search terms 

    • people AND animals 

  • Use NOT to exclude a search term from your results 

    • children NOT infants 

Not enough results? 

  • Check your spelling (databases are confused by typos!) 

  • Remove search terms 

  • Try a broader version of a search term 

  • Remove limits (such as date, subject, publication type, etc.) 

  • Use OR to search multiple versions of a keyword at once 

    • dogs OR cats OR hamsters 

Searching with Subject Terms

Subject Terms (also called subjects or controlled vocabulary) are the database’s “official” keywords assigned to topics. When searching with subjects, your results will most likely be more precise and relevant.

  • Clicking on the subject term (or changing the search box’s “select a field” to Subject) will only bring up results that have been labelled with that controlled vocabulary in the subject field. 
    • Tip: you can also add a Subject Term to your list of keywords. 
  • Find Subject Terms in: 
    • Database records of a source (journal article, periodical, etc.) EBSCO database record section labeled Subject Terms with a list of hyperlinked search terms.ProQuest database record section labeled "Subject" with a list of hyperlinked search terms.
    • Thesaurus (or similar word/phrase) – this is a searchable list of all controlled vocabulary from the database 

EBSCO. Search options are listed at the top, with "Subject Terms" circled in red.

Advanced Search in ProQuest. "Thesaurus" is circled in red.


Databases provide tools to limit your search results based on multiple criteria. Most databases include options for limiting by: 

  • Full Text (only shows sources you can access immediately) 

  • Peer Review 

  • Publication Date

  • Source Type 

    • Scholarly or Academic Journal, Newspaper, Magazine, Book, Dissertation, Media 

  • Subject (or Subject Terms)

Limits can be added to your search when starting a new search using "Advanced Search" or from the Results page.

Screenshot of the left column of an EBSCO search results page, titled "Refine Results"      Screenshot of the left column on a ProQuest results page