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Systematic Searching Support

Database Searching Overview

Databases have different journals included as well as different subject vocabularies. There are a few platforms (EBSCO, ProQuest) that share identical navigation with other databases on the platform. The information on this page is intended to be an introduction to database searching. Working with a librarian and consulting the help menu (or both!) for each database is recommended. 

Connecting and Formatting Search Terms (Boolean Operators)


The image is a visual aid for understanding the logical “OR” operation.
Title: The image displays the word “OR” in large, bold letters.
Expression: It includes the expression “a OR b” to represent the operation.
Diagrams: Two diagrams are present:
Overlapping Circles: Two overlapping yellow circles (like a Venn diagram) illustrate that results can include ‘a’, ‘b’, or both.
Separate Circles: Two separate yellow circles represent individual sets ‘a’ and ‘b’.
Caption: Below the diagrams, the text explains that “each result will have either a OR b in the field, and there may be results that have both”.
The image uses a white background with black text and yellow graphical elements to convey the concept of the OR operation in a clear and straightforward manner. The combination of text and visual diagrams effectively communicates how the OR operation can include either of the conditions or both.

The image is a visual guide on using parentheses in search queries.
Title: The image is titled “Parentheses” in bold black letters.
Example Query: It shows an example search query: “(a OR b) AND c”.
Explanatory Text: The text explains that parentheses group search terms, are useful for synonyms, and can be nested.
Diagrams: Two diagrams illustrate the concept:
First Diagram: Overlapping circles for ‘a’ and ‘b’ with a shared area labeled ‘c’.
Second Diagram: Separate circles for ‘a’, ‘b’, and ‘c’ without overlap.
The background is white, and the diagrams include black and yellow elements. The text is clear and informative, providing a concise explanation of the use of parentheses in search operations.

The image is an educational resource explaining “Truncation” in database searches.
Title: “Truncation” is displayed in large, bold letters at the top.
Search Examples: It shows truncated search terms “ciga*” and “nutri*”, with potential results like “cigar, cigars, cigarette, cigarettes” for “ciga*” and “nutrition, nutritious, nutrient, nutrients” for “nutri*”.
Explanation: A note explains that an asterisk (*) allows a database to fill in possible word endings, and truncation usually requires at least four characters to start with.
Advice: It advises caution with truncation as short truncations could bring many unrelated terms and that it can’t be used in the middle of a phrase.
The image uses a white background with black text and yellow highlights to clearly present the concept of truncation in search queries. The text is concise and informative, providing a clear guide on how to use truncation effectively.

The image serves as a guide for phrase searching, demonstrating the use of quotation marks for multi-word phrases.
Title: “Phrase Searching” is written in bold, black letters at the top.
Examples: Phrases like “multiple word phrase,” “heart attack,” “indigenous people,” and “South America” are shown in quotation marks.
Instruction: A note at the bottom instructs to use quotation marks around phrases with more than one word, and that some databases may use different symbols for phrase searching.
The image combines text and color to effectively communicate the concept of phrase searching, with a white background and clear, black text for easy reading. The use of quotation marks is visually emphasized to illustrate their importance in phrase searching.