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Illinois Tech Library Guides

Finding Journals and Articles: Important Search Tips

Keyword Search

Databases Search Method Google Search Method

Can I search databases the same way I search Google? The answer is NO! We use the keyword search method to search databases.

Keywords are words or phrases that explain your topic. All searches start with at least one keyword, whether it's a simple or complex search. Use this handy table to help create a list of keywords for your search.

Here is a common and incorrect searching style:

The database will interpret this search as a phrase, so it will look for all these words right next to each other. Some authors may use this exact phrase so you may get 1 or 2 results. Most authors will not write the exact phrase you wrote it, which means you will miss several potentially relevant articles. For example, an article that has "Teens exhibit violent behavior after playing violent video games" in the abstract wouldn't appear in your results even though that sentence completely matches what you are searching for!



Refine your search:

In this search, the main concepts (keywords) are separated onto different lines. See the little AND to the left of the second and third line? That's a Boolean Operator. It is telling the databases that you want to find all three of these main concepts anywhere in the record for the article. The articles retrieved must have all three of these concepts in order to be shown in the results, which makes your results more relevant to your topic.



Check out how Boolean Operators work. The shaded yellow sections represent the types of results you'd get by using AND, OR, and NOT.


  All results would contain the the keywords "calcium" AND "fatty acids."

   Results would contain either the keywords "calcium" OR "fatty acids," or both.

 Results contain the keyword "calcium," but not any results that contain "fatty acids." 

Want to take your search to the next level?

Use Boolean Operators within the search boxes! There are many ways to talk about "teens" - youth, adolescent, student, young - so why limit yourself? When you have words like "teen" that have multiple synonyms, use the OR operator to search for any one of those words in the results. This will expand your searches. If one author uses "teen", another uses "youth," and another uses "adolescent," it won't matter - they'll all show up now in this search. 


Thesaurus: Find Synonyms

When you have your keywords, you need to look for synonyms of the keywords. The more synonyms you use in your search, the more article results you will get from the database. Many library databases have a thesaurus or a list of subject terms that the database uses to categorize articles. You can use the database's thesaurus find the most relevant and academic terms for your topic.

The Thesaurus or Subject Terms list is usually located near the top of the database page.




Use the linked guide to find out how to search a database thesaurus.