How to use databases

Library databases are specialised search tools that find information from specific study and research areas.

Databases contain a collection of articles, reports and other subject specific resources.  Results you find in databases can be narrowed down to peer reviewed and scholarly publications which means you are likely to be retrieving reliable sources of information to support your research.

To search our databases:

  • use Findit to search most of our databases from the one search box
  • for more specialised topics, search using individual databases.

Keyword and phrase search

Keywords are words and phrases which best describe your topic.

  • Also consider synonyms, for example "climate change" and "global warming".

For help identifying keywords for your topic, see Research steps.

Using Connectors (Boolean operators)

Boolean operators connect phrases or keywords to improve your search results.

AND will narrow your search showing articles which contain both keywords. and_boolean.jpg
OR will broaden your search showing results which contain at least one of your keywords. or_boolean.jpg
NOT will narrow your search excluding certain words from your results not_boolean.jpg

Using Truncation and Wildcards

A truncator is used to retrieve all the different ways a keyword might appear in the database. The symbol commonly used is the asterisk *. 

For example, environ* will retrieve environs, environment, environments, environmental, environmentally etc.

A wildcard replaces a letter within your keyword. For example, behavio?r will retrieve behaviour and behavior.

Wildcard and truncation symbols vary from database to database. Check the database help section to identify the correct wildcard and truncation symbols.

Bringing it all together

You can combine all the elements described above to create a search strategy.

(“climate change” OR “global warming”) AND environ* AND consum* AND behavio?r

Always be prepared to rethink your strategy. If you're not getting good search results, try starting with just one keyword, then adding other keywords incrementally.

Other database features

Many databases offer a variety of search features including limiting options, thesaurus buttons and field searching which you can also use to enhance your search results. To find out what specific features a database offers, refer to their search help or tips.

Need assistance?

Ask the Library.

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Listing of databases

No full text available?

Most databases provide access to full text however some may only have the abstract or citation data available.

If no full text is available, click findit_logo.png  to check if it is available from a different database, the Library catalogue or other resources